Desert Dispatches: Blog http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog en-us (C) Christopher Langley & Osceola Refetoff info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) Wed, 13 Dec 2017 05:58:00 GMT Wed, 13 Dec 2017 05:58:00 GMT KING JOEY OF TRINITY STREET http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2017/8/king-joey-of-trinity-street Stop-Liquor Jr Market – Mojave, CA – 2016Stop-Liquor Jr Market – Mojave, CA – 2016

Stop-Liquor Jr Market – Mojave, CA – 2016

 

Trinity Street in Mojave, California is short. It runs three blocks from Highway 14 (Sierra Highway) to the Mojave High School football field. The football field has grass, unlike most of the yards on Trinity Street. Dirt yards are good for saving water, bad for a sense of suburban decorum and manicured gentility.

Trinity Street has bland architecture trending towards cream-colored stucco and unadorned fences. It is nearly eight o’clock in the morning and no one in the three blocks has apparently left for work. The residents appear generally unemployed. There is no headlong rush out the doors to be on time for work. Fifteen minutes later two mothers, one in pajama pants, both in slippers, are herding children to the family cars to drive them to the elementary school three blocks away. The parents are unwilling to let the children walk to school. A few people stride by from other streets, neither rushing nor dawdling. They appear to be on errands or on their way to work, but they have allowed enough time.

 

Trinity St & L St Sign – Mojave, CA – 2016Trinity St & L St Sign – Mojave, CA – 2016

Trinity St & L St Sign – Mojave, CA – 2016

 

Otherwise, Trinity Street is empty, although most houses show signs of habitation. There feels like something is wrong on Trinity Street. Is it the unemployment rate over ten percent when the rest of the country is approaching five percent? Looking down the street, large green energy projects, both windmills marching into the wind and large tessellations of solar panels announce that once there were jobs here. They required trained technicians and construction workers not just uneducated day laborers. Now, minimal teams are left to maintain, monitor and inspect these cutting-edge industrial projects.

Our original goal had been to capture the sign in front of the Liquor Jr. Store that advertised “Ice Ammo” the evening before at the “golden hour.” Photographers love the light of the hour just at dawn and then again at dusk. The CalTrans sign hovers next to the highway, bracing as the periodic pulses of traffic signal the after-work stampede to somewhere else. The sign says “No Parking Any Time” but somebody, presumably the store owner, has posted larger, distracting Rockstar billboards there. Our debate is always how much to alter the composition to perfect the image.

 

ICE/AMMO – Mojave, CA – 2016ICE/AMMO – Mojave, CA – 2016First printed: 2016

Captured off Highway 14 in the remote desert town of Mojave, California, the iconic "ICE/AMMO" sign was displayed for what seemed like forever before suddenly disappearing from view shortly after this image was captured.

ICE/AMMO – Mojave, CA – 2016
 

Customers are constantly coming and going. Each time there is a shrill, annoying din as if some warning was needed to announce each person’s presence. They are happy, at times almost joyful, as if they are picking up party refreshments. They are generally people of color. There is a strong, if superficial, sense of sociability. Is that an indication of a more durable community or just an ingrained protocol of strangers crossing paths and asking “How’s it going?” For some imperceptible reason, they don’t manifest as embedded in the local economy. Nothing and no one is really connecting here on the street corner. Other customers are morose, sullen with eyes downcast. America has an alcoholic culture where booze is necessary for relaxing and having a good time. Alternatively, people use liquor for self-medication or to kill the pain of depression, a sense of uselessness, and isolation.

A woman comes by as the photographer continues to work and asks, “Are you taking it for the Mojave page?” She wants to be in the picture.

 

Charred House on Trinity Street – Mojave, CA – 2016Charred House on Trinity Street – Mojave, CA – 2016Color Infrared Exposure

Charred House on Trinity Street – Color Infrared Exposure – 2016

 

“My lonely desert” the photographer whispers as he waits for the vehicle traffic to subside before shooting. 

A rumbling train starts to move past Mojave in tedious, onerous passage. It is determined by sheer force of weight and locomotive power to deliver its freight to market. A potpourri of exhaust fumes, effluvia, and industrial flatulence mix and ooze up Trinity Street to where the shell of a burned-out house remains. A whiff of BBQ drifts down from somewhere on the next block. But a feeling of waiting for some unnamed, absent person permeates the stillness. In fact, he never comes.

The torched house has the anthropomorphic dark grin of a toothless meth addict, the empty windows are lifeless eyes, the burned door a deadpan nose, and the mouth formed from stairs blackened with debris and decaying fire ash. A black man comes out of a similar house and, when asked, says the structure burned about a month ago. The curious passerby might wonder who once lived here.

 

Address Marker – 2223 Trinity Street – Mojave, CA – 2016Address Marker – 2223 Trinity Street – Mojave, CA – 2016

Address Marker – 2223 Trinity Street – Mojave, CA – 2016

 

The sooty roof beams enclose the skeleton with a rib cage. Inside the charcoal smell is persistent. Piles of blackened ash and cinder litter the floors and pile up as the setting sun shines bravely through the window facing west. A sullen sadness of the ruin of one of the many banal buildings that line the street marks the vapid life of the low-income family in our rich country. As darkness falls, a fuller understanding of this neighborhood requires a return in the morning.

The golden hour in the morning necessitates an early rise. Somehow this day it is not nearly as persuasive with the beauty illuminated by lemon light that one might expect. In the daylight, there are intimations of humble lives poorly kept. One yard is a diminutive junkyard full of objects saved in the name of recycling that unlikely will get used again. There is the junk car cliché, hard to imagine it will ever move again. It is stored for the future nonetheless. Plastic toys have weathered in the scorching desert sun of summers past: a pink scooter, a multi-colored play set, a red trike with a yellow basket behind. The gate chain is secured with three padlocks.

 

Charred House at 2223 Trinity Street – Interior – Mojave, CA – 2016Charred House at 2223 Trinity Street – Interior – Mojave, CA – 2016

Charred House at 2223 Trinity Street – Interior – Mojave, CA – 2016

 

A car pulls up and parks on a worn-out lawn. In an area swept perennially by desert winds, the trees have been bent permanently towards the east. While most of the houses have recent roofs, they still have the look of rentals and impermanence. With each block – the closer to the Mojave High School, home of the Mustangs – the houses and yards are better maintained. In three short blocks, we pass from one economic class up the ladder to the next.

Back by the Economy Hotel, providing a place to crash for twenty-five dollars a night, a man comes out of the liquor store carrying the familiar paper bag, a reward for making it through another day. Then he pauses at the green dumpster of the motel, sets down the square bag and hitches himself up on the edge, sliding gently in for a “dumpster dive.” In America, with one of the richest standards of living, people still go hungry. Living off the cast-off food, articles, and rejected or unneeded items of the rest of population is a skill honed by the poor. The money saved is something they become adept at finding, giving the term “the art of the deal” a very different, ironic meaning to living a subsistence life among the relatively wealthy.

 

ICE/AMMO –  Night No.1 – Mojave, CA – 2016ICE/AMMO – Night No.1 – Mojave, CA – 2016

ICE/AMMO –  Night No.1 – Mojave, CA – 2016
After many years in this spot, the iconic ICE/AMMO sign was destroyed in a windstorm.

 

Kris Kristofferson sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” His pessimistic view is only half the story. We are enslaved as much by the things we don’t have but crave to own, as by the objects we possess. The poor keep on living side by side with us but they are no freer than those deeply embedded in an American culture subjugated by materialism.

Now a large beer truck pulls up and parks. A rangy man with a wife-beater t-shirt and complex shoulder tattoos sidles up and nonchalantly asks about us. His skin is brown, either from the desert sun or his Aztec ancestors. We do not suspect that we are in the presence of the street’s royalty. Soon he has agreed to pose for photographs but asks for a dollar so he can buy a beer to recover from last night’s drunk. He is “King Joey B” he says, and he has come here from the Los Angeles neighborhood of Atwater Village to be nearer to his two daughters and wife in California City. He disparages his parenting as an “f’d-up dad.” He loves his daughters though. “I’m a good dude, not crazy,” he assures. He has an aura of someone lost that no one much notices.

 

Budweiser Truck & Stop Sign – Mojave, CA – 2016Budweiser Truck & Stop Sign – Mojave, CA – 2016

Budweiser Truck & Stop Sign – Mojave, CA – 2016

 

King Joey is 41 and says his end is near. He is dying, that’s what it comes down to. “I’ve lost everything and everybody from alcoholism. My uncle is an alcoholic too. I’m a stone cold drunk. Nobody took me down but myself. From 1996 to 2006, I was in prison. I was in Tehachapi for 8-years solitary and was on meds. I was the phantom. I stay out of the way and nobody sees me.” He speaks with street-honed words yet clear enough articulation.

Gradually, his self-diagnosis of desert dementia begins to manifest. He pauses and wonders to himself if these men (us) are just hallucinations. He shakes his head. “My father was Thomas Hewitt, the father in the real-life Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You know the movie. I never got my dad. I have a tattoo of him.” He pulls back his wife-beater and a gruesome face reminiscent of Frankenstein becomes visible. That is his father he says. “I was abused as a child and my mother was a heroin addict. I’m just 41 and a drunk. Not that much time left. My trailer has black mold. It is a 25-footer. The mold caused a two-headed child. I’m not delusional. At night, I dream and zombies and monsters walk Trinity Street. They are real.” 

 

King Joey of Trinity Street – Mojave, CA – 2016King Joey of Trinity Street – Mojave, CA – 2016

King Joey of Trinity Street – Mojave, CA – 2016

 

A man saunters up. King Joey turns over the dollar he is holding to the guy to buy them both beers. Neither the man nor the beer ever shows up again. King Joey poses to look tough, but his alcohol-racked body is emaciated and he reiterates he’ll soon die. No one in the world, not even on Trinity Street, will notice his passing nor acknowledge he was ever there.

The high school, the scattered churches, and the shopping areas at both ends of town present that people can find, construct, and live happy American lives. Many complex social, economic, and psychological issues play into the success of living here, just as they do in the desperation and misery we also see. Mojave is a major transportation hub and many people are merely passing through. With those who settle, individual hard work, persistence, learning, luck, and spirit leads many to find their way. Sadly, still others falter and ultimately are lost. 

 

Charred House on Trinity Street No.1 – Mojave, CA – 2016Charred House on Trinity Street No.1 – Mojave, CA – 2016Infrared Exposure

Charred House on Trinity Street No.1 – Mojave, CA – 2016

 

Trinity Street makes me want to better understand the people of poverty living in the context of a country of wealth. I am white, raised upper middle class. I have never been poor, never even known others caught in poverty until I joined the Peace Corps in Iran.

King Joey appears mentally unstable and delusional. His self-diagnosis could be right on target. He has no hope now. Others here may have made poor personal and economic decisions that led them down dead-end streets. The new economy may not offer enough jobs, or jobs for which these workers are qualified. They live a day-to-day life and suffer from the inability to make plans and implement them. Life then is wherever the day takes them.

 

King Joey & Liquor Sign – Mojave, CA – 2016King Joey & Liquor Sign – Mojave, CA – 2016

King Joey & Liquor Sign – Trinity Street – Mojave, CA – 2016

 

Must I be satisfied with the idea that the poor are always with us? If they can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps, will they have no profitable future? My moral compass dictates I should address the poverty around me. Yet, I don’t know what to do that would have a marked positive effect. Today after Trinity Street I ache for a better promise, a better way, a better community.

As the sun sets, it envelops this world in golden light. The hustling crowd fresh from work abates. A kind of provisional peace from the long day’s journey into a partial acquiescence of one’s fate settles on Trinity Street. All too soon the cycle will begin again with the promises of a new day. Then passing time and human ennui will again erode the hope for something better.

– C.L.

 

Window View from Charred House at 2223 Trinity St – Sunset – Mojave, CA – 2016Window View from Charred House at 2223 Trinity St – Sunset – Mojave, CA – 2016Color Infrared Exposure

Window View from Charred House at 2223 Trinity St – Sunset – Mojave, CA – 2016

 

 

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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix alcoholism arson black & white photography california desert christopher langley color infrared photography desert landscape photography desert ruin digital infrared photography economic distress fire damage high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain kern county mojave california osceola refetoff rural small town unemployment usa www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2017/8/king-joey-of-trinity-street Thu, 24 Aug 2017 16:15:00 GMT
TOMBSTONES OF THE GHOST FARMS http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/11/tombstones-of-the-ghost-farms Twin Silos and Collapsed Farm Building - Bishop, CA - 2016Twin Silos and Collapsed Farm Building - Bishop, CA - 2016Infrared Exposure

Twin Silos and Collapsed Farm Building - Infrared Exposure - Bishop, CA - 2016

 

The past speaks to us in a thousand voices, warning and comforting, animating and stirring to action.
Felix Adler

 

Across the dead fields and arid wasteland of northern Inyo County there are ringed silos standing straight, desolate and empty. They are now tombstones marking a way of life gone by. These cement cylinders were for silage during the beginning of the last century. They were a symbol of owner-pride. These were farms and dairies that have since blown away with the dust of many windy days.

Once there was plentiful water, human greed, and the lamentations of the pioneers taming a beautiful, harsh, and hostile land made of sand, soil, and stone. I hear mournful voices whispering under the winds as we ponder lives turned barren and lost on Highway 6 just north of Bishop, California.

The winds today are brutal, shaking the giant, ancient and gnarled cottonwoods that were planted when farmers came to this land to break the earth to plant. Today the sky is electric blue, with fair-weather cumulus gamboling across the azure firmament above our gale-sanded eyes. These clouds tantalize the photographer waiting for them to form the composition he wrestles to create.
 

 

Boarded-Up Farm House - Bishop, CA - 2016Boarded-Up Farm House - Bishop, CA - 2016Color/Infrared Exposure

Boarded-Up Farm House - Color/Infrared Exposure - Bishop, CA - 2016

 

We walk to the milking barn, whose looming, warped profile summons us to enter. With its breached roof creating complex, striated light patterns all about us and across our upturned faces, at first we hesitate to intrude on the memories here. Woven into the whining wind I hear the whispering, disconsolate ghost voices of those who came before. They tore the land, built the barn, erected a farmhouse, and finally hired a local man to pour the cement jackets, ring upon ring, to fabricate the twin silos.

There is so much I am seeing that I don’t really understand. Is it just a matter of the City of Los Angeles taking the water south? I go back to study the history, economy and practice of farming here to fully understand. In my mind there is a dialogue of what I see and what I learned late after my visit, a dialogue of experience and later research. I share this dialogue that continues in my head as I reread my writing:

 

A.O Adams built twin silos at the bequest of this nameless farmer. The paper said Adams had built a few dozen across the area. These twin structures that reached from the earth straight up towards the heavens were a source of swelled virile pride for this farmer.
 

 

Silos and Shadows - Bishop, CA - 2016Silos and Shadows - Bishop, CA - 2016Infrared Exposure

Silos and Shadows - Infrared Exposure - Bishop, CA - 2016

 

I study the dairy landscape through a time-vandalized window as the wind rustles litter nearby. The pasture, pocked by cow patties (although there are no cows today) glistens green with energy from the sun. The variegated light through the expiring roof marks our faces, creating both hesitation and uncertainty whether we belong here.

 

In the 1870s settlers set out with friends in a small wagon train from Fort Scott, Kansas. The wife and husband stalled out in Laramie, Wyoming waiting for their young son, grown sick, to get well. Although they were hopeful, he did not survive. They finally made it here on this land just north of Bishop.

All around them was the promise of the land. Not only how to grow, but how to sell and find new markets, even though they lived in the middle of an arid, rural nowhere. They incorporated the Inyo Creamery just before the century turned.

 

The story being told by these shadows permeates my conscience. I think about how hard life was in the 1870s. When these pioneer farmers got here from the mid-west, most of them had to master a new way of farming in arid lands. Since the seasonal rains were both severely delineated and often unfaithful, these farmers learned irrigation techniques, and ultimately built two hundred miles of unlined canals.
 

 

Window View of Twin Silos from Abandoned Barn - Bishop, CA - 2016Window View of Twin Silos from Abandoned Barn - Bishop, CA - 2016

Window View of Twin Silos from Abandoned Barn - Bishop, CA - 2016

 

The photographer shoots the two silos to the west through the same window I use to imagine the historic dairy landscape. He masters the challenge of lighting as I listen to the wind-torn silence all about. No vocalization rises above the pulsating howl of the wind. Do I hear the troubled mumbling of relocated farmers?

I ponder what other signs remain of this agrarian way of life in this spectacular landscape, with Sierra Nevada Mountains on one side and the White Mountains on the other. I later learn that by 1891 there were 22 separate ditches. Today these dry watercourses still meander like scars across the land, but only visible to the vigilant.

I leave the barn and walk over to the cement cylinders. A rusty ladder clings to each of their rough poured sides. The forms were two and a half feet high when poured, then hitched up to the next level. Gin pole and mule lifted the cement forms.
 

 

Twin Silos, Collapsed Building & Pink Foliage - Bishop, CA - 2016Twin Silos, Collapsed Building & Pink Foliage - Bishop, CA - 2016Color/Infrared Exposure

Twin Silos, Collapsed Building & Pink Foliage - Color/Infrared Exposure - Bishop, CA - 2016

 

Weeds dance in the wind around the bottoms of the silos. The tops are spiked with exposed rebar. I struggle to understand how they used these silos, imagining getting the forage to the top to fill the cement jacket.

 

W. R. Ford in Round Valley first experimented with the practicality of silage. For those non-farmers reading this, silage “is grass or other green fodder compacted and stored in airtight conditions, typically in a silo, without first being dried, and used as animal feed in the winter.”

Ford showed the top only spoiled down to ten inches, eighteen on the sides. The first silo was built in 1892, and in the next twenty years, anyone who could afford one, wanted one or two for their farms. Then after a depressed period, the new century gave way to prosperity. But these inexperienced arid land farmers – through their carelessness, inexperience, or incompetence – were creating a major disaster.

 

I wanted to argue with this voice. As a loyal Owens Valley patriot, I knew it was only Los Angeles taking the water that caused the collapse of agriculture here. The abandoned silo ruins and boarded-up farms gave undeniable evidence to the main cause: water extraction by “flatlanders.” Now it seemed the responsibility must be shared.
 

 

Boarded-Up Farm House with Watchful Horse - Bishop, CA - 2016Boarded-Up Farm House with Watchful Horse - Bishop, CA - 2016Infrared Exposure

Boarded-Up Farm House with Watchful Horse - Infrared Exposure - Bishop, CA - 2016

 

But it was Mulholland and Eaton who masterminded killing the Federal Reclamation project in order to bring water to Los Angeles. The project would have saved agriculture here and there would still be working dairies and farms.

 

These pioneers bear the onus of being careless and ignorant with the water. In high rain years the water was left to stand. The seepage from the unlined canals created marshes. The poor drainage took its toll and the best lands became spoiled with alkali deposits, laid down year after year.

 

The wind rises in a sibilate whine as I poke around the collapsed building to the north of these silos. White enamel ghosts leer out at me in the wreckage of the storage shed. Old stoves, refrigerators and antique appliances, all broken down, are salvaged because on the farm everything has potential use down the road.
 

 

Collapsed Building with Hoarded Appliances and Tires - Bishop, CA - 2016Collapsed Building with Hoarded Appliances and Tires - Bishop, CA - 2016

Collapsed Building with Hoarded Appliances and Tires - Bishop, CA - 2016

 

There is no proof that the reclamation project in the valley would have paid for itself with agricultural profits. These farmers ruined the best lands and filled the young men and women with bitterness. It was easy to blame the other, the City of Los Angeles. From more than 500 farms the number dropped to a little more than 200. A quarter of the population left. The drought of the early 1920s did bring the City back with a vengeance to buy land for more water for the aqueduct. We joke still, “Flush your toilets, L.A. needs the water.”

 

I am arguing with a disembodied voice in my head. I smirk with a sudden conscious embarrassment and return to the barn. The photographer works to frame the boarded windows of the farm house, a now blind domicile, in a weathered window frame. He frames his desert visions with abandoned architecture. At his feet are more disowned machinery and appliances, detritus of our consumer age.
 

 

Window View of Boarded-Up Farm House from Abandoned Barn - Bishop, CA - 2016Window View of Boarded-Up Farm House from Abandoned Barn - Bishop, CA - 2016Color Infrared Exposure

Window View of Boarded-Up Farm House from Abandoned Barn - Color/Infrared Exposure - Bishop, CA - 2016

 

My inner argument continues. But it is the flatlanders, the lack of water storage, their profligate waste of water in swimming pools and washing off decks and walkways. It is too little too late. It is easy to understand the faults of others, especially impersonal, heartless utilities that crush our farms, dairies, and creamery.

 

Before the end of the 1800s Owens lakeshore had shrunk 200 feet. If there never had been L.A., still the lake could have become dry. A somewhat pointless speculation involves what this land would look like today without the City? Like San Jose or Riverside? True the City used nefarious means to buy land. Appeal to local greed and pay top dollar for one central piece of land, then pump down the groundwater and buy several surrounding pieces for much less.

But at every turn the City outsmarted the people living in its water-rich colony until, drained by embezzlement the collapse of the Watterson banks brought almost everyone to poverty. The water wars were over, and all that remained was tallying the accumulating dead farms.


View from Atop Silo onto Naturally Irrigated Pasture and Snowcapped Sierra Nevada - Bishop, CA - 2016View from Atop Silo onto Naturally Irrigated Pasture and Snowcapped Sierra Nevada - Bishop, CA - 2016

View from Atop Silo onto Naturally Irrigated Pasture and Snowcapped Sierra Nevada - Bishop, CA - 2016

 

Yet the pastoral beauty of our land does remain. The continuous planted fields from Laws to Bishop, the trees along the highway, the flowers and the pasture, rich with nutrients for bovine stomachs are now gone. It feels to me that this lost land is a floating dream world. All that remains besides community and personal family gardens are alfalfa fields.

Yet, we live well here in Inyo County. The loss has been acknowledged and we move on. Still in my heart is a bitterness that is slowly being healed by all the good people I meet here and in the City.
 

 
Traffic on Main Street (Highway 6/395) - Downtown Bishop, CA - 2016Traffic on Main Street (Highway 6/395) - Downtown Bishop, CA - 2016

Traffic on Main Street (Highway 6/395) - Downtown Bishop, CA - 2016  (approximately one mile from silos)

 

This farmer on whose land I stand lived a full life and died in 1929. He saw so much. There was a contradiction between the farmers’ deleterious misuse of irrigation on the land, mostly through ignorance, and their wish to farm the lands for their bountiful crops. Just as their lives on the farm were dying, voices of the past were stirring the people of the City of Bishop towards action. They still love and use the land respectfully, but now they have created an industry of recreation. Exercise, becoming one with nature, hiking, fishing, hunting, and biking: the list of recreational opportunities goes on.

This new way of life depends on the people who took the water, and the first farmers who did such a mediocre job with our fertile valley. There is a kind of peace born in acceptance. Bishop High School once had dances in the old barn, and now occasional weddings take place outside its weathered face. It’s funny how things change.
 

 

Kevin Mazzu – Main Street (Highway 6/395) - Downtown Bishop, CA - 2016Kevin Mazzu – Main Street (Highway 6/395) - Downtown Bishop, CA - 2016

Kevin Mazzu – Main Street (Highway 6/395) - Downtown Bishop, CA - 2016
Kevin is a Bishop resident, local businessman, and civic leader. A
ctive with local projects and charities, he has led the committee to gain National Scenic Area status for the Alabama Hills in nearby Lone Pine, CA.

 

We head into downtown Bishop, where farming has been replaced by another landscape-based economic engine: recreational tourism. I stop and talk to Karen Schwartz who owns Sage to Summit. She is rushed to get home to cook dinner for her family, but stops to say her business is on an upward curve. She assures me life is good on Main Street, no matter how many challenges are presented. I realize from adversity on our land the meaning of life is born. Still I hear the murmuring of restless voices. However, the bitterness from damage done to the land in the past is mitigated by local acceptance of some responsibility for the demise of the farms. The rancor of the past is also balanced by a new sense of optimism in the residents today for the hope of an improving future tomorrow.

We still shape the land and it continues to shape us.
 

– C.L.

 

Window Display of Ultralight Adventure Gear – Sage to Summit Store - Downtown Bishop, CA - 2016Window Display of Ultralight Adventure Gear – Sage to Summit Store - Downtown Bishop, CA - 2016

Window Display of Ultralight Adventure Gear – Sage to Summit Store - Downtown Bishop, CA - 2016

 

Almost all the black & white images presented on High & Dry are infrared exposures, likewise the strange-colored images captioned as "Color/Infrared Exposure" above. I've been experimenting with a "hot sensor" camera that allows exposure of the entire continuity of light energy from infrared, through the visual spectrum, to ultraviolet. Since the human eye can only perceive radiation in the visual spectrum, the infrared and mixed visual spectrum/infrared exposures capture ghostly forms detected only by the camera sensor and re-interpreted as colors we can see. A dispatch that includes "spirit" voices seemed like the ideal place to introduce this color infrared technique that I'll be incorporating into my general photographic practice.

– O.R.

 

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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Osceola Refetoff california high desert desert landscape photography high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/11/tombstones-of-the-ghost-farms Thu, 17 Nov 2016 17:30:00 GMT
OF MIRACLES AND BURNING PALMS: THE GREAT FIRE OF THERMAL, CA http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/8/of-miracles-and-burning-palms-the-great-fire-of-thermal-california Charred Property at Grapefruit Fire Site - Thermal, CA - 2015Charred Property at Grapefruit Fire Site - Thermal, CA - 2015

“All things are possible, if only you believe.”
Gospel song sung by Elvis Presley and others


The rumor went around that the fire in the fan palm grove belonging to the Jesus Is Salvation Church began with a lightning strike. Pastor Ruben Martinez tells me it may have been an electrical short in a work shed on the property. So the fire wasn’t caused by a vengeful God from the Old Testament to punish the unfaithful. On the contrary, evidence suggests that it was the faithful.

The scene is apocalyptic with the rooms, walls, and floors of the burned house intact. As Osceola goes through his normal contortions of composition, I struggle to understand the architectural design of one of the destroyed buildings. Fire ruins take on a desultory, chaotic impression. Melted and twisted steel, Daliesque chairs and furniture, blackened-face tile, and now useless intention obscure their utility of structure.

 

Remains of the Fruitland Fire - Dawn - Thermal, CA - 2016Remains of the Fruitland Fire - Dawn - Thermal, CA - 2016

Remains of Fruitland Fire - Dawn - Thermal, CA - 2016
Top photo: Charred Property at Grapefruit Fire Site - Thermal, CA - 2015

 

Osceola shoots the rising sun and cloud bank through a window that frames the torched desert scene. Then he scampers into the ovoid swimming pool that stares like a blinded Cyclops from the flame scorched earth. There is a beauty here, a disaster porn element that seduces through its purposelessness of consumption, an intense oxidation. There is no god of fire here. There is the peace that is attained through exhaustion and destruction. Human hope has disappeared in depletion then impoverishment. Can faith bring back hope? 

The palms are now green on top; the other trees remain dead except for a few oleanders that line the road.

 

Burnt-Out Buildings Viewed from Empty Pool - Thermal, CA - 2016Burnt-Out Buildings Viewed from Empty Pool - Thermal, CA - 2016

Burnt-Out Buildings Viewed from Empty Pool - Thermal, CA - 2016
 

Talking with Pastor Ruben, he made the origin of the fire as being mundane not supernatural very clear. He also explained that he bought the property with the palms to make a value of 20 million dollars needed to build a new house of worship. 

As I walk through the grove of fan palms (Washingtonians), there is a stately beauty about the planting. These are mature trees. The fire has burned off most of the detritus that palm trees accumulate. Now instead of the rough outer covering of the trunks, they are smooth, tessellated with fire-caused soot intensifying the contrast on the surface. This will probably disappear with time and the palm trees will be returned to health and salability.

 

Pastor Ruben Martinez of the Christ Is Salvation Christian Church - Thermal, CA - 2016Pastor Ruben Martinez of the Christ Is Salvation Christian Church - Thermal, CA - 2016

Pastor Ruben Martinez of the Christ Is Salvation Christian Church - Thermal, CA - 2016
 

Cal-Fire Captain Lucas Spelman said at the time of the fire, “It’s dry out there, the trees got less water this year. The palm trees are dry and they’re carrying the fire.” It had been first reported as half an acre but spread quickly in the record 119 degree heat. One nearby neighbor, Francisca Berdugo, stated, “I see a big mushroom in the sky and flames.” Eventually roads in the area of Grapefruit Boulevard and Avenue 58 were affected and traffic was diverted.

Pastor Ruben meets me at the site. The initial evaluation determined that the trees were gone and his church suffered a loss of $4 to $5 million. Now there is peace in the grove, the birds are happily chirping, and all is right with the world. The palm grove is full of life. At first Pastor Ruben is reticent, evaluating my motivations. He does tell me his story with calm yet steadfast enthusiasm.

 

Entrance to Grapefruit Fire Site - Thermal, CA - 2015Entrance to Grapefruit Fire Site - Thermal, CA - 2015

Entrance to Grapefruit Fire Site - Thermal, CA - 2015
 

He and his wife Margarita are the senior and founding pastors. They have been married more than 40 years. In 1985 his mother was dying of tuberculosis and the doctors were unable to heal her. He got down on his knees in the restroom and prayed, promising God that if he saved her, he would follow him and his teachings the rest of his life. His mother lived another twenty years. 

Pastor Ruben has been a child actor in movies, business owner, auto mechanic, and investor. He is now retired, working full-time for the Lord. He and his wife were moved to start the Jesus Is Salvation Church in 1996. It started small but now has a building on Harrison Street in Thermal, and also another site. Ruben dreams of a big, new church.
 

 
Partially Intact Building at Grapefruit Fire Site - Thermal, CA - 2015Partially Intact Building at Grapefruit Fire Site - Thermal, CA - 2015

Partially Intact Building at Grapefruit Fire Site - Thermal, CA - 2015

 

“We bought this with a purpose to sell the palm trees and make over $25 million to build our new church on Church Street here. And now these trees were gone, and you can’t insure palm trees. Usually when crisis comes in, that’s when we pray to God and we see the glory of God manifest and he’ll calm the storm.”

Pastor Ruben prayed and had his congregation most strong in their faith pray. The palm trees were assumed dead, but the pastor had them watered anyway even though the farmer watering them said it was hopeless and a waste of water. The decision to water was an act of faith in itself. Palm trees are watered through flood irrigation, although drip irrigation is coming into fashion. The palm trees are now obviously coming back, while most of the other trees on the property remain dead.

 

First Light On Dead & Recovered Trees - Thermal, CA - 2016First Light On Dead & Recovered Trees - Thermal, CA - 2016

First Light On Dead & Recovered Trees - Thermal, CA - 2016
 

Pastor Ruben says his church will cling to its faith and find a way to rebuild or more exactly build. The property also had two other single-family homes, both of which belonged to the church. The residents were provided with shelter, food, and clothing.  On the church website the Pastor posted, “All of us at Christ Is Salvation Christian Church thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers as we continue to assess the damage from the fire at our palm nursery in Thermal. The church continues to provide clothing and rooms for those families displaced by fire.”

“We especially thank all the Cal-Forestry fire fighters, Riverside County Sheriff deputies, Riverside County Hazmat, the Red Cross, and other organizations who have provided round the clock protection, provisions and updates. We pray in Jesus’ name for speedy and full recovery for those precious servants of Cal-Fire who suffered injury during the fires.”

 

Sunrise Over Burnt-Out Building - Thermal, CA - 2016Sunrise Over Burnt-Out Building - Thermal, CA - 2016

Sunrise Over Burnt-Out Building - Thermal, CA - 2016
 

It is a simple story. The suspicious, cynical, or pragmatic will say that the palms would have come back, like the oleanders, from their roots. It didn’t take prayer or faith, but nature’s resilience. The faithful will testify that it was God’s steadfast love. 

Standing at the edge of the scorched palm grove, the belief of this man and those he pastors have certainly empowered their wills to act, to keep the faith, and to make it through another day as the trees recover. One thing is certain: I am assured by the faithful that the new church will get built.

–C.L.

 

Sunstar and Resurrected Palm Grove - Thermal, CA - 2016Sunstar and Resurrected Palm Grove - Thermal, CA - 2016

Sunstar and Resurrected Palm Grove - Thermal, CA - 2016

 

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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Jesus Is Salvation Church Osceola Refetoff Pastor Ruben Martinez abandoned structure california desert charred property coachella valley color photography dawn desert landscape photography desert windows series desertscape domestic drought faith fire damage forsaken dreams grapefruit fire high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain hope human activity human enterprise magic hour mojave desert palm tree riverside county rural sunrise sunstar thermal CA www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/8/of-miracles-and-burning-palms-the-great-fire-of-thermal-california Tue, 30 Aug 2016 16:00:00 GMT
ONE THOUSAND AND ONE CULTURAL ILLUSIONS: ORIENTALISM IN THE COACHELLA VALLEY http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/7/one-thousand-one-cultural-illusions Coachella Valley High School Mural with New Mascot - Thermal, CA - 2016Coachella Valley High School Mural with New Mascot - Thermal, CA - 2016

 

God, she was beautiful - my first image of the Orient - a woman such as only the desert poet knew how to praise: her face was the sun, her hair the protecting shadow, her eyes fountains of cool water, her body the most slender of palm-trees and her smile a mirage.

  Amin Maalouf

 

Our attitudes about the Orient and Middle East have changed significantly from the 1930s when movies, books, and marketing nurtured a popular fantasy of harem girls at your beck and call. Even earlier, Hollywood fed dreams in the audiences of Rudolph Valentino as The Sheik taking you to his Bedouin tent to show you his etchings. With a Middle East rife with geopolitical hatred and religious bigotry, riding off into the Saharan sunset has lost its romantic appeal. 

 
Statue & Sunstar - Riverside County Fairgrounds - Indio, CA - 2016Statue & Sunstar - Riverside County Fairgrounds - Indio, CA - 2016
 
Statue & Sunstar - Riverside County Fairgrounds - Indio, CA - 2016
Top photo: Coachella Valley High School Mural with New Mascot - Thermal, CA - 2016
 

Our racial stereotypes of dark skinned terrorists have erased what was once a romantic distortion that was labeled Orientalism by academic Edmund Said. Much serious work now examines this study of our views of Asian peoples. In 1947, it was a different world when several business people of Indio coupled marketing their excellent and growing date crop with Oriental fantasies borrowed from Hollywood and One Thousand and One Nights to create what was at the time culturally insensitive, yet “dressing-up” fun. It became a very successful marketing ploy. 

It was in these years that the International Indio Date Festival took shape and for the next thirty years had a musical pageant, a kitschy theatrical set, camels galore and everywhere you looked waitresses, townspeople, doctors, and lawyers dressed in faux Arabian Nights costumes.

 

Vintage National Date Festival Brochure - Indio, CAVintage National Date Festival Brochure - Indio, CA

Vintage National Date Festival Brochure - Indio, CA

 

Many people who do not know deserts first hand mistakenly think: “a desert is a desert is a desert.” Certainly the Mojave Desert of California is different from the Sahara, Gobi, and Iran’s Sarhad. But think of palm trees, sand dunes, colorful clothes, and engaging characters and you have stereotypes that cover all our desert fantasies, regional or international. Seventy years ago they added the pastiche of half naked belly dancers in halter-tops. Stir in seductive and mysterious, darkly handsome men, magicians, sadistic rulers, and you have sexual fantasies that have been loosed on the shopping land. Today this vision is quite anachronistic and we easily recognize it as such. We see women from different Muslim cultures in chadors, hijab, yashmak, or at least conservatively veiled in scarves, walking down our streets.

In the date market of the 1940s into the 1960s, sellers and consumers were seduced by the “Oriental” fantasies that Hollywood, Middle Eastern literature, Romantic paintings, and graphic arts in general had inculcated into our imaginations. But that was then, and now only the remnants remain in street names, business mottos, and gimcrack Muslim architecture at the Riverside County Fairgrounds located in the city of Indio, CA.

 

Arabian Mobile Home Park Entrance - Indio, CA - 2016Arabian Mobile Home Park Entrance - Indio, CA - 2016

Arabian Mobile Home Park Entrance - Indio, CA - 2016
 

Perhaps it is best reflected in the early date merchandiser and farmer Mr. E. Floyd Shields in his small pamphlet with the long title “Coachella Valley Desert Trails: The Salton Sea Saga and the Romance and Sex Life of the Date.”  Chances are you were reading along casually until you got to “sex life.” The book had a picture of Mr. Shields in a pith helmet looking like your grandfather with a caption “Mr. Shields Holding Female and Male Date Blossoms.”

University of Chicago Professor Edward Said’s work on Orientalism, and in his book of the same name, has deeply interested me after my two years in Peace Corps Iran before the Islamic Revolution and as a film historian researching Oriental Hollywood films made in the American high desert. I experience both fascination and repulsion at the prejudices, distortions and negative attitudes about Arabian, Iranian and other Middle Eastern cultures that are prevalent now. Violence spawned by geopolitical tension and colonialism on the part of the West has exacerbated the fear of the “other” foreign culture.

 

Mural - Riverside County Fairgrounds - Indio, CA - 2016Mural - Riverside County Fairgrounds - Indio, CA - 2016

Mural - Riverside County Fairgrounds - Indio, CA - 2016
 

The heyday of this ersatz pop culture adoption to sell dates was in the period of after WW2 into the 1960s. By then, international diplomacy and travel, increased cultural sensitivity, and now anti-ISIS and Muslim feelings have undermined the love of the Arabian fantasy. Other forces as well may be at work. Perhaps the images have lost their appeal and been stripped of innate sexual fantasy. The iconography is exhausted in the public mind. Indio is also developing a strong Hispanic culture and population, which now is filling in for the retreating Oriental one.

One stronghold remains for the by-gone Arabian infatuation and that is the annual Indio Date Festival, now the National Date Festival and now also the Riverside County Fair.

 

Sign - Riverside County Fairgrounds - Indio, CA - 2016Sign - Riverside County Fairgrounds - Indio, CA - 2016

Sign - Riverside County Fairgrounds - Indio, CA - 2016
 

I cross Arabia Street and walk up to the gates, where the architecture is faux Oriental, actually influenced by many Eastern nationalities, and yet reflecting none. There are domes of no particular era, muqanas or miniature, pointed arches and simple patterns derived from geometric, arabesque, and floral designs. The security was extreme and all I could think of was the airlines security that followed 9/11, a modern artifact of Middle Eastern geopolitics today.

Inside the Festival it was row after row of food booths. Various rides outlined against the sky, many spinning and jerking attempts to extract what had recently arrived in each rider’s stomach. Off in the distance I could see several giant construction cranes working on a major project. Indio means to move on from its Middle Eastern pandering to a modern developing desert city. Among other projects, construction is proceeding on a prison.

 

Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival Sign - Indio, CA - 2016Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival Sign - Indio, CA - 2016

Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival Sign - Indio, CA - 2016

 

I pass so many booths offering food: Texas doughnuts; Italian ices, Thai, Chinese, and more. You name it; they have it.  There was only one thing involving dates and that was an Indio date dog. Nearby there was a “deep fried snickers” sign competing for my gastronomical attention. Many years ago I had one. That fulfilled a lifetime of curiosity.

On the near horizon there is silhouetted the minaret and eastern roofs of Arabian architecture. It is actually a large and engaging set for the nightly musical pageant that has been playing in one version or another for nearly seventy years. There is wonderful stage equipment and feeling you aren’t in Indio anymore. I walk by three camels nearby that are there to give rides. Two were working while the third was lounging around on his belly. It looked like fun but my legs began to ache with the memory of an all night camel ride up an active volcano named Taftan that crowns the Sarhad, a southern desert of Iran where I once lived.

 

1001 Natchts Ride - National Date Festival - Indio, CA - 20151001 Natchts Ride - National Date Festival - Indio, CA - 2015

1001 Natchts Ride - National Date Festival - Indio, CA - 2015 (Photo: Christopher Langley)
 

Earlier in the day these humped “ships of the desert” had been part of a camel race and that night they will be on stage in the pageant. In the distance I could see a whirling ride, one end of a giant pendulum with a long bench for about ten or twelve people. On the other end was a giant sign that stated “1001 Nacht.” The One Thousand and One Nights classic literature had greatly influenced the dreamers and fantasists in the 1940s. Still the Queen of the fair is called Scheherazade. 

The Holy Lands are one other area where this affectation of Orientalism persists. The Shields Date Gardens have paths for walking through the date palms. Recently they obtained larger-than-life statues from a closed Bible garden illustrating the most famous events of Jesus Christ’s life. For the devout it is engaging; for the rest it is mere simulacra and a synthetic imitation of a universe far, far away and long, long ago.

 

Coachella Valley High School Sign with Old Mascot - Thermal, CA - 2016Coachella Valley High School Sign with Old Mascot - Thermal, CA - 2016

Coachella Valley High School Sign with Old Mascot - Thermal, CA - 2016
 

Yet one cultural insensitivity often takes the place of another. What is it in human nature that attracts us to negative stereotypes of other cultures for mocking and animosity? Using sex to market dates has been done before, and it can be done again. It is a common strategy today in our culture. Health is another marketing game plan that is being used, although many are stumbled by something so sweet with natural sugars being healthy. The new marketing tactics for dates have yet to be tested, proved, and finalized.

Indio is now up and coming; in spite of dropping groundwater in some areas, it is straining to be a modern desert city. The date crop ranks at the top, making the area the date capital of the United States. Now the marketing strategy is health and nutrition rather than romantic fantasies.

 

Coachella Valley High School Mural with Genie Mascots - Thermal, CA - 2016Coachella Valley High School Mural with Genie Mascots - Thermal, CA - 2016

Coachella Valley High School Mural with Genie Mascots - Thermal, CA - 2016
 

Indio has developed a Mission Statement and built a strategic plan for the future: Self-study, goals, and objectives. The will to move ahead, with the money to do it, points to a very different future than a faux Arabian one for the town, and its companion towns on the Highway 10 corridor. 

-C.L.

 

 

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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff california desert color photography dates desert landscape photography desertscape domestic drought high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain human activity human enterprise human legacy human trace indio CA mojave desert muslim culture national date festival orientalism riverside county riverside county fair shields date garden www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/7/one-thousand-one-cultural-illusions Fri, 15 Jul 2016 17:00:00 GMT
MR. AND MRS. DATE PALM ARE MOVING TO THE COUNTRY http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/6/mr-and-mrs-date-palm-are-moving-to-the-country Palm Grove off Airport Blvd - Thermal, CA - 2015Palm Grove off Airport Blvd - Thermal, CA - 2015

 

An old Arabic legend tells of the Date palm's creation: "After God had finished molding Man from Earth; He took the remaining material and shaped it into a date palm which he placed in the Garden of Paradise."

As we drive around the Coachella Valley towns of Indio, Thermal, Coachella, and even Mecca, we see full-grown, beautiful date palms being cut down, or pulled-out violently by the roots. I feel a terrible loss at seeing these stately, valuable trees being wantonly destroyed. The lots are cleared and then put up for sale. 

Eventually the land will be filled with cookie-cutter homes. I ruminate on the fact that neither the date palms nor the homes are natural to this area. One might surmise this destruction spells the end of date agriculture in the area.
 

 

Newly Constructed Homes Alongside Palm Grove - Indio, CA - 2015Newly Constructed Homes Alongside Palm Grove - Indio, CA - 2015
Newly Constructed Homes Alongside Palm Grove - Indio, CA - 2015
Top photo: Palm Grove off Airport Blvd - Thermal, CA - 2015

 

Are you kidding? It is the crop that makes Indio the date capital of the United States, producing 95% of American dates. Several factors are in play, but in actuality the date gardens are simply being relocated out of town. First, the land within the growing town is too valuable. Developing it for housing and business can make a profit. Second, as the trees grow older, their production drops off, and harvesting from the ever-higher crowns becomes more difficult, and thus more expensive and dangerous. 

So Mr. and Mrs. Date Palm are moving out to the country where land is relatively cheaper and not likely to be developed any time soon.
 

 

Palms, Ladder & Sunstar - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016Palms, Ladder & Sunstar - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016
Palms, Ladder & Sunstar - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016

 

From the East Coast originally, I remember vividly when I saw my first palm tree. We were on a spring break road trip from college in winter bound New Hampshire to my roommate’s hometown of Sarasota. It was predawn and the palm was on the northern edge of Georgia, the burgeoning steel-blue light silhouetting its strange, prehistoric, scaly trunk and exotic fronds. Slightly crazy from driving all night, all I could think was dinosaurs will be next.

Dates are not native to the Coachella Valley. But as it turns out, the rare desert climate here is perfect for growing them. In 1898, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent their “Agricultural Explorers” to travel the globe looking for new foods unknown in the West to grow back in the United States. The story of the Biblical date is one of the romantic visions coloring this crop in the Coachella Valley. The Shields Date Farm actually has a Biblical garden with stations-of-the-cross sculptures from Jesus’ life.
 

 

"The Baptism of Jesus" - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016"The Baptism of Jesus" - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016
"The Baptism of Jesus" - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016

 

David Fairchild went to Bagdad to study date palms because of the seductive stories in One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. This book and the whole flavor of Arabian culture and romanticism were very popular at that time. Fairchild’s co-worker Walter Swingle went to Algeria and brought back several bundles of date palm offshoots. They flourished in the Coachella Valley climate. Fred Popenoe then sent his two sons Paul and Wilson around the world risking their lives. They stopped in Iraq for date palms. However, Paul nearly succumbed to typhoid fever in the tropical climate, and Wilson contracted malaria but survived.

Wilson reported that in the Red Sea, a lot of the precious cargo of date cuttings was lost in an ocean squall, threatening the entire mission. Short of drinking water for the crew, the ship’s captain was resistant to using any on the remaining offshoots. Wilson exchanged a new technological wonder at that time, his typewriter, with the captain for water. The plants survived the arduous journey.

Today all the date palms in the Coachella Valley are descended from these early gathering trips. 

 
 

Strange Palms with Baby Carriage and Homeless Encampment - Indio, CA - 2015Strange Palms with Baby Carriage and Homeless Encampment - Indio, CA - 2015
Strange Palms with Baby Carriage and Homeless Encampment - Indio, CA - 2015

 

As we stand near the center of town, this evening the sun is a red, burning eye setting in the murky, dust-infused evening air. Osceola is struggling to create a photograph capturing the eleven palm trees standing in broken posture in an abandoned parking lot.

Palm trees are everywhere in the Coachella Valley, but it is Indio that most readily identifies with their reptilian solemnity. The ones we are studying for their aesthetic fatigue have an orphaned baby carriage, a one-person homeless camp, and other urban detritus all about them. The trees, some broken off and mere posts, are infused with elements of entropy, echoing timeless regrets in this harsh land. Sun-blasted gravel spreads at their feet. Their necks are bent in anthropomorphic tilt as if listening, waiting to hear something about their meaning. Is it just the traffic on the busy street nearby? Do date palms here in the Coachella Valley have ulterior or metaphysical significance beyond just an agricultural crop? They do have important allusive meaning, embedded in several major religious texts from Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. 
 

 

Sandstorm Approaching Bermuda Palms Mobile Estates - Indio, CA - 2015Sandstorm Approaching Bermuda Palms Mobile Estates - Indio, CA - 2015
Sandstorm Approaching Bermuda Palms Mobile Estates - Indio, CA - 2015

 

These sacred writings are rife with symbolism, but here these trees seem to be commenting on whom we are, and what we have left behind that now defines us. Even the practice of growing date palms is idiosyncratic, labor-intensive, and nearly unparalleled. This process does limn human determination and tenacity. 

Palm trees are not propagated from seeds in most cases. The palms are cultivated by harvesting the dozen offshoots around the lower trunk when the tree has reached full maturity. The offshoots are planted and watered and up to 80% survive and grow. 
 

 

Sandstorm at Bermuda Palms Mobile Estates - Indio, CA - 2015Sandstorm at Bermuda Palms Mobile Estates - Indio, CA - 2015
Sandstorm at Bermuda Palms Mobile Estates - Indio, CA - 2015

 

We see new palm gardens, often on the edge of town. I remember the violence their immediate ancestors have suffered and wondered if these trees will eventually have a violent end as well. After a few years they will start to flower. Date palms can take 4 to 8 years after planting before they will bear fruit, and 7 to 10 years to produce viable yields for commercial harvest.

Propagating dates is labor intensive and requires skilled workers called palmeros who also work in humidity and 120 plus degree heat at certain times of the year. They are often Mexican nationals, and because of their extra skills and the harsh working conditions are paid more than other farm laborers. These palmeros tie up the male flowers until they are dry and the pollen can be shaken out onto the female blossoms. This is done by hand, working high up in the boughs of the palms.


 

Flood Irrigation - Date Palm Grove off Grapefruit Blvd - Thermal, CA - 2015Flood Irrigation - Date Palm Grove off Grapefruit Blvd - Thermal, CA - 2015
Flood Irrigation - Date Palm Grove off Grapefruit Blvd - Thermal, CA - 2015

 

I stare up at the dagger-like spines that are ready at a moment’s notice to tear into human flesh, eviscerating the farmer’s arteries from his forearms. During the first few months of the year, the palmeros take very sharp curved knives and cut off the stiff sharp thorns. 

While there are several types of dates, in the Coachella Valley most dates are of Deglet Noor variety. It is a semisoft date, with firm flesh and a color range from light red to amber. Blonde and brunette dates were developed by and sold exclusively at the Shields Date Farm in Indio. Mr. E. Floyd Shields was an authority on the life of the date and how to promote interest and tourism and as he proves in his original film with the provocative title, “Coachella Valley Desert Trails: The Salton Sea Saga and the Romance and Sex Life of the Date.” 
 

 

"Don't Miss It!" - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016"Don't Miss It!" - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016
"Don't Miss It!" - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016

 

These dates came all the way from the Middle East originally; now their new restlessness has resulted in a much shorter trip. The culture of the date is a conundrum of contradictions.

The process of growing date palms and harvesting dates is still labor intensive. The process combines ancient ways with modern technology. Often people who are fans of dates are fans of the famous date shake. Sweet to the point of cloying, still it is popular with the tourists who visit the area, as long as they are not on a diet or diabetic. I am not a fan of the shake but love dates used in main dishes and baked goods. This crop is unique, rare, difficult, and yet lucrative when handled professionally. It has marked, molded, and shaped Indio and the Coachella Valley since propagation there beginning more than a century ago. You’ll know that almost as soon as you arrive.
 

 

Caroline Castillo - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016Caroline Castillo - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016
Caroline Castillo - Shields Date Garden - Indio, CA - 2016

 

By the way, before you go out to explore any of the shady, cool palm gardens of Indio, or even the new ones, put on tough calf-high boots. Rattlesnakes are also attracted to the tepid temperatures and don’t take kindly to being stepped on.
 

–C.L.

 

Palm Trees & Irrigation Pond - Thermal, CA - 2015Palm Trees & Irrigation Pond - Thermal, CA - 2015
Palm Trees & Irrigation Pond - Thermal, CA - 2015
 

 

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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Osceola Refetoff color photography desert landscape photography high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain human activity human enterprise human legacy www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/6/mr-and-mrs-date-palm-are-moving-to-the-country Wed, 15 Jun 2016 16:30:00 GMT
APRIL IS THE COOLEST MONTH http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/4/april-is-the-coolest-month  

Hot off the press, the Whole Life Times' feature story High & Dry: L.A.'s Tug-of-War with its Neighbors (beautifully written by Genie Davis) explores the city's historic relationship to the surrounding desert and the challenges we face in an era of increased water scarcity.

 

Whole Life Times - High and Dry: L.A.'s Tug of War with its Neighbors - April/May 2016Whole Life Times - High and Dry: L.A.'s Tug of War with its Neighbors - April/May 2016by Genie Davis, photos by Osceola Refetoff
LINK TO ARTICLE

by Genie Davis, photos by Osceola Refetoff

 

Meanwhile, High & Dry's adventures on KCET's Artbound continue with Lancaster, California: From Alfalfa to 'Net Zero' City. Stay tuned! High & Dry is the featured project all week, with a brand new Dispatch rolling out each day.

We invite you to visit ChristopherLangley.org, a shiny new showcase for Chris' books, news, and upcoming events. Discover what lies behind the "shadowy" moniker he's chosen for his publication outfit.

 

 

Osceola's photography can be seen through this Saturday at Muzeumm. The intriguing, must see, exhibition Abstract Never Is closes April 9th, 1-6pm, with a panel discussion from 3-5pm that includes art luminary Peter Frank.

 

"Walk" - Downtown Los Angeles, CA - 2010"Walk" - Downtown Los Angeles, CA - 2010Pinhole Exposure Abstract Never Is - Curated by Juri Koll - MuzeuMM - Los Angeles, CA - 2016

"Walk" - Downtown Los Angeles - 2015 - at Muzeumm thru April 9th

 

Be a part of history! Check out our new Sponsorship Page to find out more. And a big, high desert thanks to our newest contributors from the Lone Pine, California community, where it all began.

 


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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Osceola Refetoff california high desert color photography desert landscape photography domestic high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain human habitation human legacy human trace kcet artbound www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/4/april-is-the-coolest-month Tue, 05 Apr 2016 17:00:00 GMT
THE DESERT SALT PAN: EMPTY AND FULL; SENESCENT AND REBORN http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/3/the-desert-salt-pan-empty-and-full-senescent-and-reborn Patterns on Badwater Basin Surface No.1 - Death Valley, CA - 2015Patterns on Badwater Basin Surface No.1 - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

“I said nothing at the time, just ran my fingertips along the edge of the human-shaped emptiness that had been left inside me.”

  Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

 

Standing at the edge of the salt pan on the floor of Death Valley I think of sugar frosting, chocolate foam and chocolate chip ice cream. I reach down and pop a very tiny piece from my fingertip to my lips.  It tastes like table salt, and it tastes surprisingly good. The sweetness I briefly imagined was mere ephemeral wish fulfillment.

I am poised expectantly at Badwater, the most popular tourist attraction in Death Valley National Park. Couples and small groups stroll with casual curiosity along a well-worn white boulevard of packed salt out towards a glimmering horizon. Is it five hundred feet or five thousand or five miles or fifty? The great epic landscapes of the desert often play havoc with our ability to estimate distance.  Here people simply give up and turn back when they see others ahead do the same. This inability to understand how far things really are can be deadly in the desert wilderness.

 

Tourists at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015Tourists at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Tourists at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015
Top photo: Patterns on Badwater Basin Surface No.1 - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

I watch these casual pedestrians and hear their voices, sometime serious, sometimes just chatty. Some folks talk about the geology before them, others about mundane events, office politics last week, or their children who have scampered ahead. One couple, hand in hand, ponder the look of the salt pan on a night illuminated by a full moon. A few couples walk in silence, either deep in personal thought or enraptured by the immensity of what lies all about them.

I crouch with my journal trying to capture my thoughts, and then sit on my small portable writer’s chair and listen. Few are speaking English and I think many of the travelers are from other countries, yet drawn to this unique park with the prospect of the landscape swathed in a light of unknown depth. The photographer struggles with the light and with his tilt-shift camera lens. Later he remarks on the same thing I noticed. He thinks that many of the people are visiting from older countries. Their infrastructures have filled the land before the idea of public lands was birthed in the United States a hundred years ago.

 

Osceola Refetoff Photographs Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015Osceola Refetoff Photographs Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Osceola Refetoff Photographs Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015 (Photo: Christopher Langley)

 

There are parks, but few protected lands of this size. Even more atypical for these visitors is the wilderness of the American West. Parks in Europe are tamer, more manicured, having been altered with the intention of improving upon nature. The parks of the world, now part of the Anthropocene Age, have human-disturbed landscapes, roads, even lawns and interpretive kiosks and centers. They do have exhibits of pristine nature contained within, but most parks are primarily modified for human interaction.

Telescope Peak’s shadow sweeps suddenly across the land, with the darkness moving as a land-devouring murkiness. We are both unprepared for the precipitous onset of dwindling light. We will return again tomorrow, a little earlier this time to extend the “magic hour” of light photographers celebrate.

We are back to the saltpan again. The photographer is striving to capture the unnamable that is before him, as I struggle to understand my compelling feelings. It is all about emptiness. Yet the desert is empty only at first glance. Although there are great sweeping vistas here that my mind struggles to understand, interpret and explain, I cannot capture in words this deep abiding sense I have upon our return to this area.

 

Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

Edward Abbey warns against searching for meaning in the desert. He fears, I think, bringing meaning to the desert beyond what is eventually there. The desert is neither empty nor full. The meaning is constructed not of the desert itself. The desert is there to be cognized and perceived, devoid of meaning. It could be argued it is empty of meaning.

Yet I cannot achieve this idea, grasp it and hold it to me. I crave meaning; struggle to capture it with words. The desert is in ways as no other landscape. I carry a Christian culture deep within me, molding my thoughts and behavior. In that religion there is the concept of kenosis: the emptying of the ego that opens one to God. Rune Grauland in “Contrasts: A Defense of Desert Writings” states, “For Abbey, too, the desert is a silent, solitary, contemplative place in which one often looses one’s self yet gains something in return.”

I am not alone, surrounded by strangers, but really alone as only humans can be in a crowd. It is a quandary, an emptiness of soul.

I turn to the facts of the “bad water.”

 

Standing Water at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2005Standing Water at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2005

Standing Water at Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2005

 

The Badwater Basin is a marvel of surprise. First there is the pool with water collecting year round. But in the summer it is empty, because evaporation is so great it exceeds the water collecting at the end of its long, tedious journey. The salt pan is constantly changing, as if it were reaching teleologically to satisfy the biologist’s definition of life itself.

Salt crystals expand, pushing the crust of salt into rough, chaotic forms. Newly formed crystals ooze between mudcracks, sketching strange patterns on the surface of the salt flat. Passing rainstorms wash off windblown dust and generate a fresh layer of blinding white salt. Floods create temporary lakes that dissolve the salts back into solution, starting the process all over again.

 Death Valley Interpretation Kiosk (on site)


More astounding is the origin of the water. Once ice age snow, now melted, it mixes with present day rain falling on mountains hundreds of miles away in Nevada. It then seeps through porous limestone bedrock and begins a long underground flow through the regional aquifer. It emerges along the fault line of the valley floor, and is fresh until it mixes with the salts that have been deposited in the basin over eons.

 

Facing North from Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015Facing North from Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Facing North from Badwater Basin - Death Valley, CA - 2015 (Photo: Christopher Langley)

 

Yet instead of an empty barren wasteland, the pool supports diverse life forms. In the area there is Salicornia (pickleweed), several species of aquatic worms and insects, and the Badwater Snail (Assiminea infirma), which has adapted and now can only exist in these extreme conditions.

I feel now a vacuity within as my skin’s sense of touch focuses on the small flies murmuring about me. They must be seeking sustenance on my salty sweat. An intense realization strikes me that my old skin matches the skin of the saltpan: splotchy, rough and worn.

I and the salt pan are one. I await the sound of silence here that explains it.

Flies, how do you make it out here? You ignore the earth’s salty skin and tickle mine instead. What is there on either skin to nourish you? The skin of the salt pan is a skin of extended patience yet subtle sensation. My skin is old and wrinkled yet still able to respond to the erotic touch and painful attack.

 

Patterns on Badwater Basin Surface No.2 - Death Valley, CA - 2015Patterns on Badwater Basin Surface No.2 - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Patterns on Badwater Basin Surface No.2 - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

It is my skin that breaths and heals and holds this bag of water and bone together. My fluids are salty reminding me that we crawled from the sea long ago. The salt pan can heal and reform with water and sun. All this leaves the emptiness that surrounds me now within me. I am one with the desert, with the salt, with the small life of flies on my skin.

I realize it is not the desert that is empty. I am empty and in that emptiness awaits a new fullness. For a passing moment I am the desert salt pan: empty and full; epic and intimate; senescent and reborn.

Then I am back to me.

C.L.

 

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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Osceola Refetoff badwater basin california desert color photography death valley CA desert landscape photography desertscape desolate disturbed landscapes drought dry lake bed high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain human legacy human trace kcet artbound national park salt pan www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/3/the-desert-salt-pan-empty-and-full-senescent-and-reborn Tue, 29 Mar 2016 17:00:00 GMT
OF DESERT CASTLES AND HUMAN HUBRIS http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/3/of-desert-castles-and-human-hubris I think natural disasters have been looked upon in the wrong way.
Newspapers always say they are bad. a shame.
I like natural disasters and I think that they may be the highest form of art possible to experience.
For one thing they are impersonal.
I don’t think art can stand up to nature.
Put the best object you know next to the grand canyon, niagra falls, the red woods.
The big things always win.
Now just think of a flood, forest fire, tornado, earthquake, Typhoon, sand storm.
Think of the breaking of the Ice jams. Crunch.
If all of the people who go to museums could just feel an earthquake.
Not to mention the sky and the ocean.
But it is in the unpredictable disasters that the highest forms are realized.
They are rare and we should be thankful for them.

 Walter de Maria, On the Importance of Natural Disasters, 1960
(writer’s original spelling & grammar)

 

Road Closed - 20 Mule Team Road - Death Valley, CA - 2015Road Closed - 20 Mule Team Road - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Road Closed - 20 Mule Team Road - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

Nature has always created altered landscapes. Through disruption and construction, nature recreates and thus renews the landscapes of our home planet constantly. With the naming of our present period the Anthropocene, the realization is dawning on us that humans also create altered and disrupted landscapes. Some even argue we are the primary movers in that domain. It is a constant process and ineluctable. Some times human agents work quickly, other times it is a slow, almost imperceptible process. Humans are constantly and ever more persuasively changing our world.

This begs the question then “Was the flood at Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley a natural or human event?” It was both. Just because we are in the Antropocene, does not mean natural forces have ceased. No doubt several millennia ago, before human enterprise touched the area, there were floods. Once human activity impacts the area, each natural event was to a greater or lesser degree affected, even transformed.

No one was there to see or feel or watch this flood.

 

Scotty's Castle and After Thousand Year Flood - Death Valley, CA - 2015Scotty's Castle and After Thousand Year Flood - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Scotty's Castle After Thousand Year Flood - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

The conundrum of “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” is upon us. We are saved from this consideration simply by our imaginations.

This flood lurks in our imaginations as we stand before the ravaged landscape nearly a month later. The history, presence, destruction, and rearrangement of the rampaging water are very real in our minds none-the-less because it lies before our gaze. At this point we do not think about the human causal element in the natural disaster. I imagine the flood event:

 

Overhead Power Lines Left Hanging After Flood - Death Valley, CA - 2015Overhead Power Lines Left Hanging After Flood - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Overhead Power Lines Left Hanging After Flood - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

The surging water roars angrily down the canyon as the storm cell stalls over Grapevine Canyon. The downpours pulse with the intensity of the pushing fluid through a narrow, channel made of compacted yet pliant soil. Then begins the frozen battle with bullets of ice the size of quarters, beating down where thermals usually rise heated from the desert floor. The sound is deafening and the water and ice tear at the underpinnings of a mobile home a few miles from Grapevine Canyon where the nearest human huddles with her husband, fearing the land holding her home safe from the raging waters is eroding away.

The cacophony of crystalline projectiles builds to a crescendo that just won’t cease. On and on it goes unabated. What could possibly survive in the darkness? The war turns to a rout as the waves of mud, boulders, and silt rise like a wind-driven tide, mixed with grinding teeth of talus dragged down the incline. Gravity pulls irresistibly at this flow of slurry: mixing debris, dust, and expectation of total destruction. Soon a moving landscape of creation and natural destruction is sweeping on irresistibly in its seduction of the land before it. Human enterprise whether castle, asphalted road, swimming pool, or Hacienda appear no match for this churning current of fluidity.

 

Blue Pipe Unearthed by Flood at Grapevine Canyon - Death Valley, CA - 2015Blue Pipe Unearthed by Flood at Grapevine Canyon - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Blue Pipe Unearthed by Flood at Grapevine Canyon - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

The storm cell seething with moisture as it rises higher and higher into the atmosphere, pumps precipitation out as it sits, a meteorological machine on a decaying, leaf-layered wreck of desert countryside. The mud now has the distasteful odor of fecund and life-giving decomposition.

A dead tree trunk, killed in the fire a few years back that ravaged two hundred more on the hill, is uprooted where the rampaging flood gathers strength. As the outflow takes shape, riding over its banks, the gnarled tree crashes through and turning with desultory movement snags on the edge of a building in its rush to freedom. The wood alcove of the structure, aesthetic in its simple repeated designs, catches the heavy trunk and swings it around as if suddenly animated with conscious intention. The water and increasing soggy refuses crashes over it, cascading on down into Grapevine Canyon, but in its madness saving the structure from sure destruction. The buildings are hydraulically blasted empty, and the furniture shredded to kindling.

 

Interior Flood Damage at Scotty's Castle - Death Valley, CA - 2015Interior Flood Damage at Scotty's Castle - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Interior Flood Damage at Scotty's Castle - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

At first the schizophrenic current whacks away at the creosote bush, white bursage, brittlebrush, Parish goldeneye, desert tea, and rubber rabbitbrush from high up. Then as the water drops lower, it pulls up catclaw mesquite, desert willow, burrobush, Mojave rabbitbrush, bladder sage, and adventurous riparian communities. Nothing stands in its way; no matter how determined the roots cling to the eroding soil. Sodden detritus begins to snug up on corners and crevices. Trees, leaves, branches, brambles, and general wreckage stall like the storm itself. The scoured rooms slowly fill with the filth, broken branches, trash and splintered bones of everything built and grown above.

Eddies in the new riparian chaos turn from whirlpools to giant gyres of land eating whirlpools of waste. Piles of silt and mud and mysterious viscous batter accumulate, move, and insinuate into corners, cracks, and abutments. Slowly the mixture settles and thickens, finding a permanent home on the new surfaces. Suddenly a surge of angry fluid rips at the deposits and releases them. The flood is again loose upon the land. The inundation of water again worries the resistant pieces of human enterprise, weakens them until they resign to the liquid insistence.

 

Flood Damage to Scotty's Castle Road - Death Valley, CA - 2015Flood Damage to Scotty's Castle Road - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Flood Damage to Scotty's Castle Road - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

This is clearly the grandest of the floods, a thousand year flood, and the maximum flood event possible here. There have been other floods. In recent times, lesser floods visited in 1976 and 1983. Much erosion and damage was done to the Bonnie Clare Road, but the damage now boggles the mind with the channel taking over, undermining, and even consuming the asphalt ribbon. My photographer/collaborator climbs then clambers over the destroyed road past Scotty’s Castle. It makes the flood rerun in our imaginations as we see the power of he water.  It cannot be defeated or discouraged and certainly never turned away until it has done its thing, run its course, and followed its gravity-driven course to the destination on the valley floor.

 

Ranger-Guide Isabelle Woodward - Death Valley, CA - 2015Ranger-Guide Isabelle Woodward - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Ranger-Guide Isabelle Woodward - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

We stop and look at the destruction, at how nature rather than human intention has altered the landscape the way nature has for millions of years, using water, or wind, or volcanism.

As we listen to the sweet soft voice of Ranger/Guide Isabelle Woodward, still in shock from her disrupted life lived peacefully a few miles away. She has been relocated away from her home, threatened that hideous night of thrumming hail. We wonder at the damage and marvel that the Castle itself, situated through engineering knowhow, or protected by luck. It has survived this most terrible desert flash flood with only minor damage.

 

Mud-Filled Pool at Scotty's Castle - Death Valley, CA - 2015Mud-Filled Pool at Scotty's Castle - Death Valley, CA - 2015

Mud-Filled Pool at Scotty's Castle - Death Valley, CA - 2015

 

Environmental/land artist Walter De Maria compares and contrasts art and natural disasters with, in his mind, the disasters coming out on top. He suggests as well that there is a beauty in the altering process that forever changes the land before us. Are there natural aesthetic principles and processes accessible here? What of human caused floods, mutations, and transformations of the land before us. Are there equally powerful aesthetic principles that we (call us Anthropos, residents of the Anthropocene) can discover, operate, perceive, and even touch? This question teases our curiosity, sense perception and conceptual cognition. The two of us travel back to this world, more or less untouched by the thousand-year flood, to explore these tantalizing ideas, questions, and speculation to find new insight.

This desert castle, misnamed “Scotty’s Castle,” may be a human created interloper in this beautiful, deserted landscape, but it clearly has survived the thousand-year flood. It may even last another thousand years, still just the blink of an eye in geological time. Hopefully the human race can say the same.

C.L.

 

Return of Lake Manley After Hundred Year Rain - Death Valley, CA - 2005Return of Lake Manley After Hundred Year Rain - Death Valley, CA - 2005

"Return" of Lake Manly After Hundred Year Rain - Death Valley, CA - 2005
 
 

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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Osceola Refetoff altered landscape california high desert color photography death valley CA desert landscape photography disturbed landscape flood damage grapevine canyon CA high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain historical landmark human legacy human trace isabelle woodward kcet artbound mojave desert mud flow national park national register of historic places natural disaster on the importance of natural disasters road damage scotty's castle thousand year flood walter de maria water damage www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/3/of-desert-castles-and-human-hubris Tue, 01 Mar 2016 18:00:00 GMT
ALTERED LANDSCAPE OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/1/altered-landscape-of-the-human-spirit Any landscape is the condition of the spirit.
 Henri Frederic Amie

 

Looking around the severely disturbed countryside, the mine foreman sees beauty in the landscape. He is harshly altering and deconstructing it with giant land-moving trucks chewing away at what’s left of several, now indistinguishable, small cinder cones. The “product” is excavated, moved, sorted, piled, sized, bagged, and shipped to be used in cement bricks and baseball fields among many other things. It is a versatile product.

 

Main Production Pit & Maintenance Shop - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Main Production Pit & Maintenance Shop - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

Main Production Pit & Maintenance Shop - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 

Ben Boyd is the manager of Twin Mountain Rock Ventures, LLC that oversees and runs the mine at Red Hill, the cinder cone volcanic area off Highway 395 between the Owens Valley and Indian Wells Valley in California. He is a lively, roughly handsome man with a shaved head, muscular features and a vital personality with off color jokes to match. He calls his crew of miners the “Dirt Boys.” They look up to him. Mining cinder is a dirty job. This summer when Osceola and I stop by, it is a very demanding, overheated, physical job. We both like him. We are comfortable with him.

We are now living in the Anthropocene: the era of the human-transformed world. No landscape is untouched by human intention; unaffected or unaltered no matter where you look. The guys who are in charge of determining geological eras, the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London, are slow in moving, although this idea of the Anthropocene has been kicking around more than two decades. Author James Purdy writes, “It is still pending: stratigraphers are well acquainted with geological rates of motion.”

 

BLM SE100 Marker & Puffy Clouds - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015BLM SE100 Marker & Puffy Clouds - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

BLM SE100 Marker & Puffy Clouds - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 

Even in the national parks like nearby Death Valley National Park, there is little pristine land: that is land unlived in or undisturbed by human enterprise. What landscape aesthetic do we use to find the beauty in these new human-altered landscapes? Boyd is clear: “Other guys try to get around MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration). I do just what they want. These miners just create more trouble for themselves by trying to get around these guys.” Looking around, he continues proudly. “This is a beautiful area.”

Osceola and I see large piles of sorted cinder, a long serpentine set of connected conveyor belts with erector set (or maybe tinker toy) superstructures carrying the product for processing. Boyd indicates this is much better than the giant loaders with all their polluting flatulence that periodically scrape, transport, and push the material at the far end of the clanking conveyors.

 

Splitter & Finish Product Screens - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Splitter & Finish Product Screens - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Infrared Exposure

Splitter & Finish Product Screens - Infrared Exposure - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 

Osceola is scouting to match an active crater in Fiji that will be part of a big commercial. They will need a volcanic area to portray a base camp. It cannot have any plants for two reasons. One reason is that active volcanic areas are generally barren, devoid of even the hardiest vegetation. Second, the desert brush will not match any of the tropical plants in Fiji. Matching shots from a tropical island with desolate high desert landscapes in the Mojave is somehow ironic to me. Osceola has been doing this business for a long time. It’s what the landscape can be made to look like rather than what characteristics and context it actually has that counts.

As he works, I sit on the edge of the pit that drops down several hundred feet below my dangling feet to a small oval floor. The land here is torn, ripped open, gutted. The walls are made of reddish brown rock laced with finer cinder. The area has been totally desecrated by mining processes. That word “desecrated” is rife with judgment however. I wonder what one hundred observers from nations and cultures around the world would say on the subject of this landscape’s “beauty.”

 

Old Excavation Pit & Sierra Nevada - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Old Excavation Pit & Sierra Nevada - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

Old Excavation Pit & Sierra Neveda - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 

I am struck by the color, the rough, sharp lines of rock. My eye traces the contrasting curvo-linear edges of the moving cinder “dunes.” The pattern of a cyan sky pocked with tropical cumulus clouds moving in seduces my perceiving brain with tantalizing iterations. A traditional southwestern monsoonal flow is coming in from Mexico. Thunderstorms are likely to rise out over Death Valley. Philosophers are struggling now to define and understand ways to evaluate the beauty of these landscapes of the Anthropocene. Many points-of-view and systems are being proposed to understand the aesthetics of the altered landscape.

Ben assures us Red Hill itself is protected from being dissected and hauled off. Is that because it has a “beautiful” symmetry attractive to the human eye that it should be protected? If the Anthropocene landscape is totally identified as being altered by human action, then a new and different aesthetic is coming into play. Aesthetic evaluation of what constitutes a beautiful landscape is complex and now, as most landscapes become “altered,” aesthetic analysis must come up with a new set of criteria.

 

Dry Lake Bed with Sunset Behind Red Hill (Location Still) - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Dry Lake Bed with Sunset Behind Red Hill (Location Still) - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

Dry Lake Bed with Sunset Behind Red Hill (Location Still) - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 

Terry C. Daniel writes in the abstract for his essay “Whither scenic beauty?” about visual landscape quality assessment in the 21st century. The “history of landscape quality has featured a contest between expert and perception based approaches…. Both approaches generally accept that landscape quality derives from an interaction between biophysical features of the landscape and perceptual, judgmental processes of the human viewer.”

As I look out on these sanguine red-textured dunes, the sweeping, extended land forms, the deep jagged black and rough surfaces (malapai) and white, ragged cliffs (pumice surfaces), I see the beauty that Ben has indicated is here. This land has been ecologically raped, but done according to government regulations. However I see an amazing deep aesthetic beauty created by human interaction with the natural landscape.

 

Dirt Road & Power Lines (Color) - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Dirt Road & Power Lines (Color) - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

Dirt Road & Power Lines (Color) - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 

I am stunned, even shamed that I see beauty here even as I saw it in the Salton Sea’s opalescent light. I realize an Anthropocene altered landscape aesthetic will be enormously different from the pristine, virgin landscape that American photographer Ansel Adams fixated on as the pinnacle of environmental beauty. “Whither scenic beauty?” indeed.

What does this altered landscape truly say about the human spirit that abides here? High & Dry is embarking on an on-going investigation into the connections between humanity and the altered landscapes that are our legacy.

C.L.

Hydraulic Shovel & Utility Pole - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Hydraulic Shovel & Utility Pole - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

Hydraulic Shovel & Utility Pole - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 


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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff altered landscape anthropocene ben boyd black & white photography ca highway 395 california high desert cinder cone color photography desert landscape photography desertscape desolate digital infrared photography fossil falls CA high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain human activity human enterprise human legacy human trace lava flow mine mining mojave desert quarry red hill CA sierra nevada CA twin mountain rock ventures volcanic www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2016/1/altered-landscape-of-the-human-spirit Tue, 12 Jan 2016 11:00:00 GMT
WALKING THROUGH TIME: THE LAYERED PAST OF RED HILL'S VOLCANIC VIEWSCAPE http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/12/walking-through-time  

Sunset Behind Sierra Nevada - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Sunset Behind Sierra Nevada - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 

“Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, as an individual human being, is slowly being unraveled. The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a balanced grip on one's own being. The mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, becoming so diffuse in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the physical self.”

 – Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

 

The sound of time whistles in my ears as I step on the landscape, stop, and look around.

 

Dirt Road & Power Lines (Infrared) - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Dirt Road & Power Lines (Infrared) - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Infrared Exposure

Dirt Road & Power Lines - Infrared Exposure - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015
1st photo: Sunset Behind Sierra Nevada - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 

I am embedded in a time machine of lava flows, pumice silt, and scoria sand as I walk about the landscape between Red Hill and Fossil Falls near Highway 395 in the California desert. The temperature withers above 100 degrees. Heat percolates off the red surfaces and fractured, jagged outcroppings left behind by a half a million years of heaving, melting, and ejection of the wine russet basalt.

Time is malleable and the air mellifluous with zephyrs as I climb the side of a crater, the walls of tiny grains moving beneath my feet with a muffled grinding sound. The tracks of an animal that passed this way before are melting back into the sanguine skin surfaces of an ever-metamorphosing beast of a million parts. The wind, an incline beyond the angle of repose, and the shifting of the crater’s walls have been active for more than ten thousand years. The cinder cone called Red Hill was created at this time as well.

 

Great Cloud Over Red Hill - Fossil Falls, CA - 2012Great Cloud Over Red Hill - Fossil Falls, CA - 2012

Great Cloud Over Red Hill - Fossil Falls, CA - 2012

 

The Red Hill’s cone itself rises in almost perfect symmetry to a flattened bowl at the top. An old man once told me there are Indian legends that go back seven hundred years which mark the last activity of this geologic behemoth by nicknaming it “The Growler.” The growling was mere mumbling of the earth falling dormant. These last gasps of activity through the chambers and tunnels deep within the earth were heard, felt, and remembered by the local native residents.

The eye dances with the soft lines of the cone against the bursting, cutting cerulean of the desert sky it is outlined against. My eye knows four basic patterns in nature: spirals, meanders, branches and explosions. Here in this tortured and once fiery landscape, patterns abound as my brain struggles to comprehend it all. This complex tangle of neurons searches out the patterns and finally, as it pauses, my aesthetic seeking soul understands the beauty before me.

 

Cinder Product Abstraction - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Cinder Product Abstraction - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

Cinder Product Abstraction - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 

I am standing on the lip of a cinder crater. As I look down, I see its ivory colored floor, with branching and cracking created through desiccation. In the not too distant past, the bowl held water. This silt was captured there and dried to cracking. Craquelure in old paintings are now reflected in nature’s process. A basic principle is “pattern follows process,” although some times in nature it can be reversed. Process has led to the art term craquelure in painting and to an astonishing beauty. Weak humans sometimes imitate the effect in modern work. This is disparagingly called cracking. Here it is the nature’s master process working without aesthetic motive and it stands as natural art.

On the incline of this crater there are small isolated plants, cushion shaped, fiercely announcing their persistence in the harsh environment. On the branches of these saxicoline plants are small BB sized buds. They are tight against the arid air, and I do not know if they will ever open or ever were intended to. But the plants are decorative and repeated green balls remind me of tiny elfin necklaces. I wonder if there are such things as desert elves or are they just found in northern German hard wood forests.

 

Volcanic Rock (Close Up) - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Volcanic Rock (Close Up) - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

Volcanic Rock (Close Up) - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 

Off to the east there is Volcanic Mountain nestled into the Coso Range, a once very active fire range, now tattooed by cones, obsidian domes, and lava flows. I close my eyes and, travelling back, smell the sulfurous smoke and hear the exploding mountain now weeping red burning lava down across this land. Are my feet melting? Are my shins aflame? This geological time travel awakens deep fears. No, now it is ossified rock, sharp as knives. These waves of molten rock poured south and covered granitic detritus left from eons before by alluvial deposit. Then fast forward to one hundred thousand years ago; just snap your fingers and you’re there.

Again a giant sizzling wave of super heated liquid rock makes its way down towards the south and west. It exudes through the Little Lake Gap. One geologist jokes “It is where the Coso Range and the east base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains ‘shake hands.’” This wave makes it to just under four miles from modern day Pearsonville before it slows and cools. So viscous and vesicular is it that it forms a towering cliff to almost five hundred feet.

 

Fossil Falls Unimproved Campsite - off CA Highway 395 - Fossil Falls, CA 2015Fossil Falls Unimproved Campsite - off CA Highway 395 - Fossil Falls, CA 2015

Fossil Falls Unimproved Campsite off CA Highway 395 - Fossil Falls, CA 2015

 

I walk through the malapai fields beyond the unimproved (read primitive) BLM campgrounds. There is no water but there are bathrooms not too far away. The lava chunks appear to rise from deep beneath its lithic mother’s breast. But in fact they have ridden on the ineluctable flows to where they now reside. Explosively ejected granitic material frosts these fields of Vulcan.

If I stop and drift back through one hundred centuries, I can hear the roar of a double cascade, and smell and feel the vapor plume of cold mountain streams, recent snow and ice, rising above the tumbling thunder. The upper fall is irregular and meandering through potholes and whirlpools down across burnished basalt. Two hundred feet below is the second falls, shining like a sheet of slippery silver. The water in the upper falls, wears away indentations that gradually become vortices, turning water to grinding at the rock with grit, sand, pebbles, and cobbles.

 

Basalt Flow from Atop Fossil Falls - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Basalt Flow from Atop Fossil Falls - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

Basalt Flow from Atop Fossil Falls - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 

Now the red to brown to black lava shines like a treasure filled lair. It is possible to slide, inch, and stretch your way through a labyrinth of these eroded twists and turns. I am entering another world entirely. In this case, the Falls are the fossils themselves. I drop away through jagged passages, here and there a scrape on an arm or elbow. The fossil falls canyon is the end of the journey through time.

The desert landscape is an open book to read like an ancient tome with page upon page each holding a layer of our land’s life story.

C.L.

 

Product for Baseball Diamonds & Overcast Sky No.1 - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015Product for Baseball Diamonds & Overcast Sky No.1 - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

Product for Baseball Diamonds & Overcast Sky No.1 - Red Hill Quarry - Fossil Falls, CA - 2015

 


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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff black & white photography ca highway 395 california high desert cinder cone color photography desert landscape photography desertscape desolate digital infrared photography fossil falls CA high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain human activity human enterprise lava flow mine mining mojave desert quarry red hill CA sierra nevada CA volcanic www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/12/walking-through-time Wed, 16 Dec 2015 17:00:00 GMT
VIDEO & THE RADIO STAR http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/11/video-the-radio-star  

VIDEO & THE RADIO STAR

 

Eric Minh Swenson's documentary on High & Dry premieres today, after this weekend's acclaimed premiere of Christopher Langley's original radio play You Are There: The Water Picnic, performed by Metabolic Studio's IOU Theater in Lone Pine, CA.

 

High & Dry: a collaboration between Christopher Langley & Osceola Refetoffa film by Eric Minh Swenson This 8-minute film outlines High & Dry's long-term collaboration and compares the Mojave Desert to the LA River, two highly undervalued land resources.

 

Osceola's images will be on view in the When Jupiter Aligns with Mars show dawning this Saturday, November 7th, 7-10pm, at the SugarMynt Gallery in South Pasadena. The stars remain aligned through December 5th.

 

Desert TV - Cinco, CA - 2011Desert TV - Cinco, CA - 2011'Magic and Realism: Photographs by Osceola Refetoff & Bill Leigh Brewer' Curated by Shana Nys Dambrot, Chungking Studio - 2015
Desert TV - Cinco, CA - 2011

 

And have you ever wondered why three of the world's prominent religions came forth from the desert? Prayer Changes Things: Desert Faith in Trona, CA explores this question in the current issue of ARID Journal.

 

Arid: A Journal of Desert Art, Design and Ecology - Prayer Changes Things: Desert Faith in Trona, CA - Oct 2015Arid: A Journal of Desert Art, Design and Ecology - Prayer Changes Things: Desert Faith in Trona, CA - Oct 2015by Christopher Langley, photos Osceola Refetoff
LINK TO ARTICLE

ARID: A Journal of Desert Art, Design and Ecology

 

Limited edition fine art photographs by Osceola Refetoff are available for saleHigh & Dry is also seeking sponsors and creative partnerships with outdoorsy and environmentally-minded companies. Email us!

 

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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix ARID: A Journal of Desert Art Design and Ecology - Prayer Changes Things: Desert Faith in Trona CA Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff arid black & white photography california high desert christian color photography desert landscape photography desertscape desolate digital infrared photography domestic editorial faith feature story fine art photography forsaken dreams high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain human activity human enterprise human legacy human trace press published religious trona CA www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/11/video-the-radio-star Wed, 04 Nov 2015 09:30:00 GMT
HENRY JONES: STUMBLING ON WHERE HOME IS http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/10/henry-jones It's a bizarre but wonderful feeling, to arrive dead center of a target you didn't even know you were aiming for.

Lois McMaster Bujold

 

Meeting Henry Jones was a serendipitous event. We were photographing the “throttling” installation in the Trona water system in Poison Canyon when, after several calls from passersby that “some guys were messing with our water system,” he thought he better get out there and investigate.

 

Henry Jones at Water Throttling Valves - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015Henry Jones at Water Throttling Valves - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015

Henry Jones at Water Throttling Valves - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015

 

Osceola had posted an Instagram only three minutes before. He wrote, kidding me as I sat writing about the water system, that I was wearing my “cloak of invisibility.” That is the term we have for our neon yellow vests, the same that are worn by most construction workers for safety. A large white pick-up pulls up and we know we are in trouble.

Henry Jones, Water Technician for the Searles Valley Minerals Company, the domestic water division, saunters up slowly. I think he is sizing us up. What he sees is a photographer crouching low, toiling to capture the twisting pipes and rust-spotted valve stems lying in the wash by the side of Highway 178. By now, after 38 years here in Trona, Jones is probably used to city folks who want to photograph the “damnedest peculiar” things. Here is a bald writer, but with a sun hat, sitting on a very small folding chair, typing away on his MacBook Pro in the bright noonday sun. And you thought, according to Noel Coward, that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun. Rocker Joe Cocker referenced that too, even on a record cover I think.

Immediately Osceola is explaining our project, sharing our postcard and business card and the latest issue of The Sun Runner: Journal of the Real Desert containing one of our stories. He is the very epitome of the ad man selling our project to prove we’re on the up and up. Henry, it seems, is interested in what the photographer is saying. The more we talk the better we communicate with each other.

 

Henry Jones & Christopher Langley at Water Throttling Valves - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015Henry Jones & Christopher Langley at Water Throttling Valves - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015

Henry Jones & Christopher Langley at Water Throttling Valves - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015

 

Soon, at our inquiries, Henry is telling us his story. He was born in Louisiana many years ago. After moving to San Diego, he needed money fast and found temporary employment at the Trona plant.

There is something about Trona that he likes immediately. Those were very good years for the town. He thinks it would be great to stay and call it home. He has plans for college though. When he discovers he can pursue his studies at night at Cerro Coso College in Ridgecrest and still continue to work in Trona, he stays. Thirty-eight years later he still works here, though now he lives in Ridgecrest where he is raising his family. These days Trona is hurting, but Henry doesn’t seem to like it any less.

Henry has an easy-going manner, friendly and articulate about his life. He accidentally found where he was going to live the rest of his life. Somehow he recognized it as home, and it has remained that ever since. He knows he is just lucky that all this has worked out. He seems happy and he looks young for having already spent thirty-eight years in the harsh desert climate.

Henry explains that the throttling area that fascinates us is where they control the water pressure in the long pipe as it brings water from the wells near Ridgecrest, fully twenty-five miles away. Last year, during the Trona Centennial, a “local” told me that in the summer the sun beating down on the pipes heats this water. “You don’t have to heat the water for your shower. It arrives pre-heated.”

 

Water Throttling Valves & Power Lines - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015Water Throttling Valves & Power Lines - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015Infrared Exposure

Water Throttling Valves & Power Lines - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015

 

Henry agrees that is true. “People from Ridgecrest talk about how bad the Trona water is. It’s kind of funny because it basically originates where theirs does. It is the same water.” But he explains there is now a water filtering plant in Trona that addresses various dissolved minerals and biological matter that come with the water. “There are some very powerful chemicals involved, that are removed before the water leaves the water plant. The water does seem to have an added taste now,” he reports reluctantly.

Henry is a handsome man. He removes his sunglasses so Osceola can shoot a portrait. When he does so, I am surprised how large, kind and gentle his eyes are. This is a good man who found his home by luck when looking for temporary work. Luckily, he recognized it as his future home. Henry has spent the rest of his life making it so. Finding home in our busy, transitory, and ever-changing modern lives is harder than ever.

All three of us have found our homes, albeit very different ones: Osceola’s, the giant modern metropolis of Los Angeles; mine, the severely rural, very small town of Lone Pine; and Henry, an area beset by economic, ecological and industrial complexities. Can we know what will become home before we see it? Or is home where your heart discovers its own true and unique nature? What of those who never discover home at all?

Our future work in Trona holds many mysteries to be contemplated, questions to be asked, and answers to seek over the course of our on-going investigation of the town and its citizens.

-C.L.

 

Water Pipes at Bend with Truck - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015Water Pipes at Bend with Truck - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015Infrared Exposure

Water Pipes at Bend with Truck - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015

 


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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff california high desert color photography desert landscape photography desolate drought economic failure henry jones high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain mining community small town trona CA www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/10/henry-jones Tue, 06 Oct 2015 23:30:00 GMT
HIGH & DRY RECENT FEATURES http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/9/high-dry-recent-features-2015 Compass Magazine - Osceola Refetoff: The Authentic Character of Things as They AreCompass Magazine - Osceola Refetoff: The Authentic Character of Things as They AreLMGA - Location Managers Guild of America
Cover Story - Summer 2015

LMGA Compass Magazine - Cover, Feature Article and "Martini Shot"

 

Compass Magazine's article Osceola Refetoff: The Authentic Character of Things as They Are features Osceola's infrared photo on the cover, as well as the "martini shot" on the last page, referencing the final shot of the day on a film shoot. Click on either image to read the full story by Shana Nys Dambrot.

 

Compass Magazine - Osceola Refetoff: The Authentic Character of Things as They AreCompass Magazine - Osceola Refetoff: The Authentic Character of Things as They AreLMGA - Location Managers Guild of America
Cover Story - Summer 2015

"Martini Shot" - Sky, Whitecaps, Earth, Halobacteria - Salton Sea, CA - 2014

 

And Framing the Desert is featured in the current Boom: A Journal of California. Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin says, "Boom is a long overdue addition to the conversation regarding the state and its cultural life, a benefit to readers and writers alike." In the article, High & Dry's Christopher Langley explores how the "window" functions as not only a literal/architectural, but also as an optical/aesthetic and narrative/symbolic structure in framing the story of our desert landscapes.

 

Boom: a Journal of California - Framing the Desert - Summer 2015Boom: a Journal of California - Framing the Desert - Summer 2015by Christopher Langley, photos Osceola Refetoff
Boom Magazine "Framing the Desert" by Christopher Langley, photos by Osceola Refetoff

 

Coming up in the Fall, High & Dry will have an piece on in Arid: A Journal of Desert Art, Design and Ecology. To keep up with all things High & Dry, please "like" our Facebook Page and subscribe below.

 


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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Boom: a Journal of California - Framing the Desert - Summer 2015 Christopher Langley Compass Magazine - Cover Story - Osceola Refetoff: The Authentic Character of Things as They Are - Summer 2015 Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff black & white photography california high desert color photography desert landscape photography desertscape digital infrared photography feature article fine art photography high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain human activity human enterprise human legacy human trace magazine cover press published shana nys dambrot window series window view www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/9/high-dry-recent-features-2015 Tue, 15 Sep 2015 23:30:00 GMT
JEFF NEWMAN: HOME IS WHERE THEY HAVE TO TAKE YOU IN http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/9/jeff-newman  

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.

– Robert Frost
 

The people who are born in a place that calls them back are lucky people. For if it is truly home, as Robert Frost assures us, then they have to take you in. For many, Trona is one of those places. But you can only decide to return if you left in the first place and for an extended time. You tried the world out there and it was found wanting. Born in Trona in 1955, Jeff Newman is back. He expresses an unemotional satisfaction about it, even if at the moment he is unemployed. Being temporarily unemployed is no big deal for him.

 

Jeff Newman - Esparza Family Restaurant - Trona, CA - 2015Jeff Newman - Esparza Family Restaurant - Trona, CA - 2015

Jeff Newman - Esparza Family Restaurant - Trona, CA - 2015
 

Jeff first left home when he was 19. It was 1974 and he hitchhiked around the country for two years, in search of America. It was only five years after the film Easy Rider (1969) had set the life quest for every kid like Jeff. He doesn’t say if he found America or not, but he does mention a commune in the Panamints. He said the winter there was just too cold. He came back home to Trona. His mom and dad took him in.

Now he candidly begins cataloging his two marriages. When he met his first wife, it was love at first sight. They eventually left Trona to go to Montana. They had 12 happy years before the marriage failed. He remains good friends with his first wife to this day. She lives in Trona still. She found a permanent home here as well. Jeff does not mention having any children.

When he found himself alone again, he travelled around the country for two years like he had as a young man. He speaks in a matter-of-fact staccato tone about it. Changing the subject, he talks about the vistas he sees every day now that he is back home. “I love the grand view, the quiet and the view of the mountains. The Slate Range with the different shades of brown. Then it goes to purple, then to dark purple. I remember one of those super moons when it started to rise.” He pauses as he remembers the beauty of the Trona landscape that night. He recollects wistfully the beauty of the super moon rising above the peaceful Searles Lake and surrounding desert.

His second wife and he live here now. They feel at home. A sister lives here and another in nearby Ridgecrest. He is one of those people in Trona who incontrovertibly belongs here.

When he works, he is well paid. Jobs are not that difficult for him to get because he knows a lot of people. He talks about when he offered help and it went on to become a job. “I volunteered at the Elks Lodge as a bartender, then went on to get paid.”

He worked at the plant with the boric acid crystallizer. “Here in Trona, the boss will hire local; you may be a little less qualified worker but if you come from here, or live here already, you are in.” Jeff continually references the advantages to being from here when you come back home, especially if you need to work.

“My father and mother came here in the late 1940s, after my dad Grady got out of the Navy. His sister already lived here.” There was a dirt road from Kramer Junction (Four Corners) then. “He was on his way to San Jose actually, but when his car broke down, he went up to the plant looking for a job. They called him back. My mother spent the first ten years crying because she wanted to leave, and the next twenty years crying for fear she was going to have to.” He smiles just at the corners of his mouth, and very tentatively.

His mother passed away a few months before. He had calmly mentioned it to Delores Hudson in the restaurant, but she already knew. His mother's name was Mary Ellen, and she was 80 years old when she passed. Born in Central City, Arkansas, she had lived in Lavaca, Arkansas before coming to Trona. She was a long-time member of the First Baptist Church of Searles Valley and spent many years volunteering as an EMT with Searles Valley Ambulance.  She is buried in the Trona Cemetery. That is another marker of where your home is. Her obituary in the Ridgecrest paper said she had nine grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.

“Living here is like living in a soap opera,” Jeff continues. “San Bernardino County is moving people here and life is easy, so they don’t have to work.” One wonders if that is an urban legend, or something to believe. Many people here are sure of it.

“There are burglaries every once in a while, but since you know everyone, it is easy to figure out who did it,” he says in a non sequitur. Jeff uses non sequiturs frequently.

In fact, Jeff’s life has been a kind of non sequitur; he is always searching for what he thinks he is missing. He now recognizes it. It is right under his feet. He has been looking for it elsewhere all this time.

The meaning of one’s life rests in the details of every day living. We dismiss these things as just ordinary and common. Suddenly John Lennon’s wisdom is clear: “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” With the perspective of time we recognize how much more satisfying mundane events actually are than the unique, rare and sought after experiences we often seek in vain.

Jeff concludes, “There will be a Trona as long as there is a plant. They say there is enough brine for at least one hundred years of work.” He sounds like this time he means to stay home.

-C.L.

 

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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff california high desert color photography desert landscape photography desolate drought economic failure high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain jeff newman mining community small town trona CA www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/9/jeff-newman Tue, 08 Sep 2015 17:00:00 GMT
CA 395: THE HIGH ROAD HOME FROM BURNING MAN http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/8/after-the-burn-regaining-balance-down-highway-395  

You just spent a week at Burning Man on a playa in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. You even loved the dust, but now you’re done with the dust. You loved the desert, but you’re done with the heat. You loved not showering as much as you would at home, but you’re tired of your sweat smell. You loved going without sleep but now your body is bone tired.

Most of all, you loved the overpowering sense of freedom, love, community and ecstatic self-expression, but now you’re…well, actually you are NOT done with that. You want more. The transformative power of all the positive human values you were immersed in is exactly what you do want to bring back with you to the default world (Burner speak for where you spend most of your time). “Welcome Home” is the standard greeting at Burning Man.

 

Curve at Horizon - Garlock, CA - 2012Curve at Horizon - Garlock, CA - 2012Infrared Exposure
Curve at Horizon - Infrared Exposure - Garlock, CA - 2012

 

Leaving the playa, at first you’re exhilarated, but now a sense of fullness is being balanced by a sense of loss. You’re headed back to the real world.

Having served as "Spiritual Advisor" in the Snow Koan Solar camp, Bishop resident Jon Peterson is also traveling back from his pilgrimage home. His advice is to bring the 10 Principles of Burning Man, written by co-Founder Larry Harvey, back with you. Jon loves Burning Man because he sees the young people “taking on community responsibilities and working hard.”

Having been on the playa for at least a week, many people take time to re-enter the world, or decompress. It was at the Saline Valley Hot Springs that Peterson first started meeting Burners. He was forced out of being a National Park Ranger in Death Valley because he contracted a sarcoma cancer, which he has battled for the last ten years. “I have to balance my every three-week treatments and being at top physical condition with Burning Man. My doctors cooperate with that and two of them keep threatening to come.”

 

Jon Peterson - The Ten Principles of Burning Man - Bishop, CA - 2015Jon Peterson - The Ten Principles of Burning Man - Bishop, CA - 2015
Jon Peterson - The Ten Principles of Burning Man - Bishop, CA - 2015

 

The journey south on the 395 from Burning Man goes by the hot springs at Travertine just outside Bridgeport, and the Keough’s Hot Springs Resort and Keough’s Hot Ditch, both just south of Bishop. They are great places to wash off the dust. They also take care of the aches, pains and stress of the road, and are great places to nap and dream.

As Jon talks about traveling home and re-entering the default world, I think back to when I served two years in the Peace Corps in Khash, Iran. The first year I resisted living like the “host country nationals,” certain our western culture was the way life is “meant” to be. Then the second year, I realized cultures as a way of life are basically artificially constructed. I began living the way the Iranian people did. When it came time to return to the U.S., I faced severe culture shock leaving my adopted culture behind to return to the one I was raised in. In a parallel way, Burners experience a transformative experience in the desert through acceptance, love and support. They learn the default culture they are returning to is equally constructed and can be changed to be more like what they are leaving.

 

Cottonwoods - Olancha, CA - 2013Cottonwoods - Olancha, CA - 2013Infrared Exposure
Giant Cottonwoods - Olancha, CA - 2013

 

I have never been to Burning Man, but I know the area these pilgrims are traveling through on Highway 395. These pilgrims, or Burners, are changed. Many report a “culture shock” of leaving the playa behind. Post-Burn depression is not unusual. I have come to admire the ideals of the Burning Man Principles that include: radical inclusion; radical self-reliance; radical self-expression; communal effort and civic responsibility. If these can be brought back and, more importantly, implemented as a way of life, then a societal transformation will begin.

You’re pretty dehydrated when you leave, so water is good, all the better to splash and play in. The lakes outside Bishop (North, South and Sabrina) provide pleasantly cold, refreshing water. They can be reached by driving a half hour out of Bishop on West Line Street. Parcher’s Resort is an option, and there are many camping areas on the way to the lakes. There are also Whitney Portal Falls and campsites, at about 8300 feet out of Lone Pine, and for the more adventuresome, Darwin Falls, out by Darwin, about 40 miles east on Highway 190. Klondike near Big Pine and Diaz Lake just south of Lone Pine offer both camping, swimming, birding and fishing (Diaz only).

 

Trees with Striped Clouds - Ancient Bristlecone Nat'l Forest, CA - 2009Trees with Striped Clouds - Ancient Bristlecone Nat'l Forest, CA - 2009Infrared Exposure
Trees with Striped Clouds - Ancient Bristlecone Nat'l Forest, CA - 2009

 

For those struggling with re-entry, they might follow some of Hannah “Meow” Masius’s suggestions in “How to Work through Feeling Weird After Burning Man.” These can be found on the Burning Man Blog. She suggests: 1) Let yourself feel; 2) Write it out; 3) Go outside; 4) Do something wonderfully absurd; 5) Spend time with friends and loved ones; and 6) Give yourself some love.

Desert highways have their own secret lives, at once isolated, slowly arching and curving through the stark landscape, then going on straight to the horizon of unknown possibilities. High & Dry has explored these in an essay entitled Dark Desert Highways. After being settled on the Black Rock Playa for a week, driving down the desert highways can be freeing, even tranquilizing; the solace on being in a small metal container is a beautiful thing at seventy miles an hour with beams of light illuminating your way forward. As you travel, you can enter a kind of altered state, but with full alert consciousness that allows you to process all the intense experiences you have just had.

 

Green Streaks - California City Blvd - CA Highway 14 - 2011Green Streaks - California City Blvd - CA Highway 14 - 2011
Green Streaks - California City Blvd - CA Highway 14 - 2011

 

Timothy McTaggart emails, “For me the three days on the road getting home wasn’t a bad transition back to the default world.… A year later I’m still trying to figure out what to make of the trip and what I’m going to do with my life from this point forward. I’m hanging in there well enough for now. I do some intermittent strange and wonderful things now with art and music.”

Many returning Burners report also having an unusually intense and active period of dreams. Many scientists and lay practitioners believe this is a natural way that the brain processes and orders experience. Dream yoga takes rigorous practice, but promises rewards. Keeping a dream journal by the bedside and recording dreams upon awakening is a good idea. The strategy keeps the dreams from slipping back into the unconscious. Writing the dreams down in a dream journal also brings out meanings you were not immediately aware of upon awakening.

 

Leaving Trona - Infrared Exposure - CA Highway 178 - 2011Leaving Trona - Infrared Exposure - CA Highway 178 - 2011Infrared Exposure
Haunted Landscapes - Art Share LA - 2015

Leaving Trona - Infrared Exposure - CA Highway 178 - 2011

 

Friend, Debbi Anne, will be at Burning Man again this year. She is one of the Black Rock Rangers who tend to the needs of the Burners on the playa: physical, mental and answering just about every question ever asked by a Burner. She advises, “Simply find places that nurture your soul on the way home.” There can be many. For instance, you may want protein, so find a good fresh food restaurant along the way. Your skin is very, very dry, so moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Vaseline in your poor nostrils and vinegar for your feet is always good.

Shaya emails in response to Hanna Masius’ blog, “My personality and the core of who I am have changed dramatically (for the better and the stronger) since I entered the Burner community and began my annual pilgrimages to the Playa. If you have the blessed luxury of being able to take time off from work, take a few extra days off after the Burn. Instead of driving all day and all night to get home, stop along the way somewhere… Find a safe place to sleep outside under the stars. Stay there for a night or two if you can. Do ‘nothing’ except prepare the food you need to eat. Contemplate the stars each night—the vastness of the Milky Way overhead. I have found that this truly helps me deal with re-entry. So much so that I make it a priority as part of my Burning Man experience.”

 

Fossil Falls Campsite - off CA Highway 395 - 2015Fossil Falls Campsite - off CA Highway 395 - 2015
Fossil Falls Campsite - off CA Highway 395 - 2015

 

The Owens Valley is rich with campgrounds that are great in early September. I like the many camping areas up by the lakes outside of Bishop. The creeks, placid lakes and wind soughing through the pines are soothing. I also like the Whitney Portal campgrounds, and the Lone Pine campground, literally in the shadow of Mt. Whitney. The Grandview Campground out of Big Pine on the way to the ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is a place of humbling relaxation. These last areas are about forty-five minutes from Highway 395.

The Fossil Falls area has thirteen “unimproved campsites” located in a stark, meditative desert landscape that encourages decompression in the willing. They are just off the highway. You will see Red Hill, a volcanic structure after leaving Olancha and driving into the ancient caldera. Just after passing Red Hill, is Cinder Road. There have been major active volcanic periods here 400,000, 100,000 and 10,000 years ago. They place the length of our lives and our place on earth in perspective. There is good interpretive material here and an interesting BLM hike through the lava fields.

 

Moon Over Best Motel - Mojave, CA - 2011Moon Over Best Motel - Mojave, CA - 2011
Moon Over Best Motel - Mojave, CA - 2011

 

Jon Peterson mentioned the art as being one of his favorite parts of Burning Man, especially the focus of one of the 10 Principles on radical self-expression. He is an artist and for the last five years has brought art projects to the Burn. He laughs all through our interview. It must be part of why he has been so long a cancer survivor. Burning Man art has a built-in appreciative and non-judgmental audience. He comes back home with new inspiration and energy. 

Some places with art for Burners to see on the way home are the murals and galleries of Bishop and Lone Pine. The provocative social media mural by Vin Leal on the Bonanza Mexican Restaurant in Lone Pine is worth seeing, followed by a meal inside.

On the way south of Olancha, artist Jael Hoffmann has a sculpture garden with many wonderful metal figures. She loves company and will welcome Burners who stop by. Her place and studio are dominated by a towering female hitchhiker representing a woman’s journey through life.

 

The Hitchhiker by Jael Hoffmann - Olancha, CA - 2011The Hitchhiker by Jael Hoffmann - Olancha, CA - 2011
The Hitchhiker by Jael Hoffmann - Olancha, CA - 2011

 

Jael writes her directions to stop by her garden. “What a cool idea… Would be wonderful to have Burners show up at the garden; I could provide them with some free Kombucha. 

Although you can turn into the sculpture garden from the highway, the two lane road makes it somewhat unsafe. Another option is to take the dirt road south of the Mobil gas station, then make a left on the second dirt road, and another right on the following dirt road, leading all the way to the sculpture garden.

Or turn into Walker Creek Road (pass the sculpture garden), then take the first dirt road north (after about 10 feet) towards sculpture garden.” Jael Hoffmann Sculpture Garden

I admire what I have learned about Burning Man, Burners and the transformational experiences to be had there. I am so impressed that I can imagine actually spending a week next year as a “virgin” Burner. Well, time will tell.

C.L.

 

Sky, Desert, Truck - Highway 395 Near Coso Junction, CA - 2012Sky, Desert, Truck - Highway 395 Near Coso Junction, CA - 2012Infrared Exposure
Haunted Landscapes - Art Share LA - 2015

Sky, Desert, Truck - infrared Exposure - Highway 395 Near Coso Junction, CA - 2012

 

High & Dry is writer/historian Christopher Langley and photographer Osceola Refetoff's long-term, cross-platform collaboration exploring the deserts of the American West and the people who live there. High & Dry is syndicated on KCET's Artbound and the Sun Runner: Journal of the American Desert, amongst other venues. To see new dispatches, sign up to below to receive them by email or 'Like' our Facebook page. We'd appreciate if you'd do both. Thank you!

 


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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix 10 burning man principles Christopher Langley Osceola Refetoff black & white photography burning man california high desert camping color photography dark desert highway decompression desert landscape photography digital infrared photography dream yoga fossil falls high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain highway 395 jael hoffmann sculpture garden post burn depression sierra nevada travertine hot springs welcome home http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/8/after-the-burn-regaining-balance-down-highway-395 Thu, 20 Aug 2015 16:45:00 GMT
THE HUDSONS: AT HOME IN A LASTING LOVE http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/7/the-hudsons Sometimes you just look into someone’s eyes and know those are the eyes you want to get lost in for the rest of your life.

 Fad Ibra
 

After a first meeting, you won’t know all the details of a couple’s life together, but you will know with conviction if they have been in love. Joe and Delores Hudson in a few months will celebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversary. They are at the Esparza Family Restaurant in Trona just finishing lunch. A shared confidence radiates from this couple. It transmits to any bystander they still are in love.

As they tell us their story, I soon learn that they married when she was nineteen and he twenty-one, after knowing each other two months. Delores tells me she interrupted the wedding ceremony three times with hysterical outbursts. She was opposed to marrying this man because she barely knew him. Her brother and his fiancé had joined the couple to make a double wedding. Instead of marrying in the local Foursquare Church, they had travelled to Las Vegas for the wedding. Delores’ brother lowered the boom and told her she was behaving like a spoiled child. “Of course you will marry Joe.” Almost sixty years later she knows it makes for a good story.

 

Joe & Delores Hudson in Front of Esparza Family Restaurant - Trona, CA - 2015Joe & Delores Hudson in Front of Esparza Family Restaurant - Trona, CA - 2015

Joe & Delores Hudson in Front of Esparza Family Restaurant - Trona, CA - 2015
 

Joe ended up working at the Company (now Searles Lake Minerals) for fifty-six years. Delores leans over the table to me, confiding that Joe “never missed a day.” That makes him an “iron man,” the likes of Cal Ripkin.  Both born in Kansas, they didn’t meet until they landed in Trona.

Joe’s initial employment in Trona was interrupted by service in the Armed Forces from 1952-54. Coming home to Trona from the service, in those days without a car, was a real challenge. Over-heating battery smells on the plane forced his Army transport to land unexpectedly in Salt Lake City. When he finally got to Fort Ord, he bought a bus ticket to Bakersfield. Then he travelled on to Four Corners, California where Highway 58 crosses Highway 395. By hitchhiking, he reached Red Mountain where he slept by the side of the road. Cars averaged only one an hour on Trona Road but he finally did get to Trona. The couple met soon after.

Today, Delores is wearing a popular local hat: “End of the world 10 miles, Trona 15.” She seems to truly love this place she still calls “home,” even though she and Joe now live in nearby Ridgecrest.

Delores insists that Trona was once a fun town, with entertainment often created by the Tronites themselves. Austin Hall, built by the Company in 1913, had most of the services, such as a phone connection, a barber, and a restaurant. It was where they showed movies under a flapping canvas cover.

While I thought the heart of Trona was destroyed when the company tore down Austin Hall, Delores disagrees. “They took that down slowly piece by piece. The services and products offered there migrated to privately owned stores.”

 

Valley Wells Reservoir (Formerly Valley Wells Pool) - Trona, CA - 2015Valley Wells Reservoir (Formerly Valley Wells Pool) - Trona, CA - 2015

Valley Wells Reservoir (Formerly Valley Wells Pool) - Trona, CA - 2015

 

She insists it was the Company closing Valley Wells swimming pool that killed the town’s fun. Valley Wells was a reservoir for holding brackish water, to be used eventually by the plant. Not potable water, it was great for swimming on star-filled hot summer nights.

Delores remembers, “There had been the Rec Hall, the Trona Tigers baseball team, and the bowling alley was big.” She also cites archery and tennis. “When the Kerr McGee Company bought the plants, they slowly killed the town. Then there were the strikes which saw one person killed and many of the strikers jailed.” Trials had to be held. When Delores was called to jury duty, she said she wouldn’t serve. “I was prejudiced,” she had explained emphatically to the court at the time. The Company’s covenant with the townspeople had been broken. She sided with the town.

When a grandson was struggling in school, given straight F’s, Delores said it meant the school was failing, not the child. That eventually led Joe and Delores to move to Ridgecrest where the schools were much better. The child flourished, but Delores missed her home on Benton Street in Pioneer Point. Now they come back all the time to see friends and to drive by her house. She tells Joe she wants to buy it and move back, but Joe remains silent. It’s not going to happen.

They lost a grandchild, and buried him in Ridgecrest, and do not want to leave him behind. They visit Trona often. Today, they come here in their ’71 Mustang convertible. Joe makes clear it is Delores’ car. It is a beautiful blue, one of several classics the Hudsons own. Joe has them around Ridgecrest, stored in garages out of the harsh desert sun.

 

Hearts Graffiti Detail - Trona, CA - 2015Hearts Graffiti Detail - Trona, CA - 2015

Hearts Graffiti Detail - Trona, CA - 2015

 

Delores wistfully looks at me. I realize how much she loves and misses living in Trona. I ask how come so many Tronites that I meet are so closely bonded to this struggling, rundown town. “It’s the people,” she says. “They hang together. All of us are here for each other when we have needs.”

Osceola takes them out to have a portrait taken. Delores hesitates. This photographer can be persuasive. As they stand before their classic Ford, Delores slowly cuddles in to Joe’s neck and smiles slightly. She looks safe and smitten.  He looks proud and very certain of how he feels.  These lovers could be posing for their high school prom.

They wave and leave. Joe peals out for our benefit. We stand, a bit envious of this couple. The good feeling they leave behind envelopes us. These two people have found love and true happiness beyond the turmoil of modern life.

In this day and age where people change relationships, we wonder how these two have done it. Were they perfect for each other at the beginning, or has their marriage been a day-by-day affair created lovingly and patiently over time? Has living in or near a place you love helped? The answers must be here. We simply need to know how to read them. Perhaps, in time, we will come to know more about their relationship and why it has endured, like the town they still call home.

-C.L.

 

1971 Ford Blue Mustang Convertible - Trona, CA - 20151971 Ford Blue Mustang Convertible - Trona, CA - 2015

1971 Ford Blue Mustang Convertible - Trona, CA - 2015

 


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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff california high desert color photography desert landscape photography desolate drought economic failure high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain joe and delores hudson mining community small town trona CA www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/7/the-hudsons Tue, 04 Aug 2015 08:00:00 GMT
TRONA HOME SERIES: HOME IS WHERE YOUR HEART IS http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/7/home-is-where-your-heart-is High & Dry spent a recent weekend doing immersive field research in Trona, CA, a 100-year-old mining community just south of Death Valley. While that sounds very studious (and it was informative), we enjoyed our work immensely and were given a hearty welcome by the citizens of town, who are determined to stand their ground despite difficult economic conditions.

― Osceola Refetoff - Facebook, May 2015

 

 

Delores & Joe Hudson with Christopher Langley - Esparza Family Restaurant - Trona, CA - 2015Delores & Joe Hudson with Christopher Langley - Esparza Family Restaurant - Trona, CA - 2015

 

Delores & Joe Hudson with Christopher Langley - Esparza Family Restaurant - Trona, CA - 2015

 

Delores and Joe Hudson are finishing lunch when we come into the Esparza Family Restaurant. After ordering hamburgers, we sit down. Soon Osceola has engaged Delores and Joe in conversation. I am drawn into the story of their lives together. This year they are coming up on their sixtieth wedding anniversary. I think about my wife’s recent death after 46 years of marriage, and the loss makes me feel closer to Joe and Delores. I am envious they will have the company of each other in old age. After a long time together, the emptiness from the death of a partner leaves you feeling no ground beneath your feet and your future unknown.

They once lived in Trona, but moved to nearby Ridgecrest for family reasons. Delores aches to return.

Later, Osceola captures Joe standing by his blue convertible Mustang, but the photographer knows a better portrait would also include Delores. She has her newly washed hair covered by a scarf, but is still willing to stand by her husband, partner and lifelong friend. She positions herself close behind him for the picture, her head slowly nestling into his neck.

 

 

Joe Hudson with Blue Ford Mustang Convertible - Trona, CA - 2015Joe Hudson with Blue Ford Mustang Convertible - Trona, CA - 2015

Joe Hudson with Blue Ford Mustang Convertible - Trona, CA - 2015

 

We wonder what is the secret to staying in love while married for almost sixty years. We mean to learn more.

Earlier, Delores had recognized Trona native Jeff Newman as he entered the restaurant. Now in full beard and long hair, he was in school with one of her daughters. He was born in Trona and recently has returned. We wonder why someone would come back to a town that many outsiders think is dying.

Jeff counseled us to find Andy Ledezma. He is the oldest living person who was born in Trona and still living here. We wonder what advantages are in Trona for someone who was born there.

Late the next day, Osceola and I return to an old abandoned house. He has already photographed it on another Trona trip, but wants to reshoot it.

 

 

Small House with No Doors - Argus, CA - 2015Small House with No Doors - Argus, CA - 2015Infrared Exposure

Small House with No Doors - Argus, CA - 2015

 

I am walking up the street, my hands full with my tripod, camera and journal. A big SUV coasts by slowly, turns around, and comes back. The suspicious driver, at first, seems to think I might be shooting a porn movie (apparently people actually come here to do that.) It is Andy Ledezma accompanied by his sister. This is another serendipitous Trona event.

Andy knows the history of every house, every block, and the town in toto, not to mention every one living there. When I say he is the “mayor” of Trona, he says no that would be Lit Brush. He is the “assistant mayor.” A twinkle of pride and fun crosses his face. He loves this town and almost every one there. His story will have to wait, as he has to be on his way to visit another sister.

Earlier in the day, we have a brush with security and small town suspicions. The tangle of valves on the pipes that control the pressure, or “throttle” the water from Ridgecrest to Trona has caught Osceola’s eye. We are parked by Trona Road (Highway 178) in Poison Canyon. I get out my small folding chair, my project journal and my laptop, the simple tools of the professional scribe.

 

 

Christopher Langley on Laptop at Water Throttling Valves - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015Christopher Langley on Laptop at Water Throttling Valves - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015

Christopher Langley on Laptop at Water Throttling Valves - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015

 

Osceola takes a break to make a photo of the writing half of our project actually working. We both are wearing neon yellow safety vests. He instagrams the photograph with the following commentary:

High & Dry’s Christopher Langley captured in the field near Trona, CA. The writer sports his “Cloak of Invisibility,” which helps him to blend into the terrain, discouraging interruptions from law enforcement and utility personnel when working near electrical and hydraulic infrastructure.

I comment that he is calling down security as soon as they see the post. A few minutes later he posts his next photo of me working and a man approaching with the gait of someone in charge.

 

Henry Jones Approaches Christopher Langley on Laptop - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015Henry Jones Approaches Christopher Langley on Laptop - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015

Henry Jones Approaches Christopher Langley on Laptop - Poison Canyon, CA - 2015

 

Cut to 3 minutes later: Apparently Christopher’s “Cloak of Invisibility” is defective and there were calls about suspicious characters tampering with Trona's water supply. After making sure we are on the up and up, company employee and 38-year Trona resident, Henry, fills us in with some interesting stories about the town's history.

We are now Facebook friends with Henry Jones, the Water Technician at Searles Valley Minerals. When he is off duty, we intend to come back and hear all the details about his years working for the company and living in Trona and Ridgecrest. How did these places become home for him?

The people of Trona love living here. Luckily for us, they also love talking about their lives in colorful detail. High & Dry agrees that coming back to Trona is like coming home. The people of Trona are the ones who make that feeling real.

We will explore in future dispatches why this town elicits such loyalty in its citizens. Is it because of the sense of familiarity, safety, or the feeling of belonging? Trona is a town facing severe economic, social and geographic challenges. Why do the people here remain stalwart in the face of such adversity?

C.L.

 

 

Christopher Langley & Osceola Refetoff at Austin Hall Marker - Trona, CA - 2015Christopher Langley & Osceola Refetoff at Austin Hall Marker - Trona, CA - 2015

Christopher Langley & Osceola Refetoff at Austin Hall Marker - Trona, CA - 2015

 

 

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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff andy ledezma california high desert color photography delores & joe hudson desert landscape photography desolate drought economic failure esparza family restaurant ford mustang convertible high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain mining community small town trona CA www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/7/home-is-where-your-heart-is Fri, 24 Jul 2015 08:00:00 GMT
HIGH & DRY RECEIVES MULTIPLE AWARDS AT OWAC http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/7/high-dry-receives-awards-at-owac  

"Best Outdoor Media Website"
"Best Outdoor Feature Photograph"

"Best Nature Photograph"
"Best Overall Photograph"

 

Los Angeles, Calif. (June 23, 2015) - The Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC) honored High & Dry: dispatches from the land of little rain this week at their spring conference in Big Bear Lake in the "Best Outdoor Media Website" category of their annual Craft Awards competition.

In addition, High & Dry's work was honored with the First Place award for "Best Outdoor Feature Photograph" going to "Call of the Wild," by Osceola Refetoff. The photo appeared in the October 2014 Palm Springs Life Magazine, accompanying an article written by Christopher Langley. This follows last year's win at the 2014 OWAC conference, when Refetoff received the "Best Feature Photo Series" award for One Hundred Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct, a High & Dry collaboration with Langley on KCET's Artbound.

Refetoff was also honored for "Big Bear Lake Vista from Pacific Crest Trail" in the "Shirley Miller Memorial Photo Contest" (a one-day, on-site challenge). The photo took First Place "Best Nature Photograph" and the "Judges' Choice" Grand Prize for "Best Overall Photograph." He had previously won in these categories at the 2011 OWAC conference.

The website, desertdispatches.com, is an on-going collaboration between writer/historian Christopher Langley and photographer Osceola Refetoff, exploring the California deserts and the people who live there.

 

Call of the Wild - Palm Springs Life Magazine - October 2014Call of the Wild - Palm Springs Life Magazine - October 2014Call of the Wild - Palm Springs Life Magazine - October 2014

Dead Tree, Nests & Thermal Plants - Red Hill Marina (Salton Sea), CA - 2014
2015 OWAC 1st Place Award: Best Outdoor Feature Photo: Osceola Refetoff/High & Dry

 

MORE ABOUT HIGH & DRY:

The project investigates the issues facing the California desert, and how economic and environmental challenges affect residents and visitors of the desert today. Deserts have traditionally been viewed as a wasteland for mining, military exercises, and waste disposal, and are now attracting interest from energy corporations in search of "renewable" resources. High & Dry strives to create compelling stories that draw attention to the value of these arid lands, their communities, and their history. The website and its "dispatch" format are designed to be visually appealing and accessible to a diverse audience, in a busy world fragmented by social and political divisions.

Beginning in February of 2014, Langley and Refetoff's observations have been collected in the form of integrated essays and images and disseminated via the website desertdispatches.com. The content is re-syndicated through a variety of online and printed media, including a regular feature on KCET's Artbound, The Inyo Register, The Sun Runner; as well as social media, gallery exhibits, panel discussions, and other venues.

Some of the topics that Langley and Refetoff have investigated are a three-part series on the Salton Sea, dispatches on Trona, a struggling mining town on the southern edge of Death Valley, and pieces evaluating the merit of industrial-sized, Mojave-based, green energy projects.

 

Big Bear Lake Vista from Pacific Crest Trail ­- Infrared Exposure - 2015Big Bear Lake Vista from Pacific Crest Trail ­- Infrared Exposure - 2015

Big Bear Lake Vista from Pacific Crest Trail - Infrared Exposure - 2015

 

MORE ABOUT THE HIGH & DRY COLLABORATORS:

Osceola Refetoff's interest is in documenting humanity's impact on the world - both the intersection of nature and industry, and the narratives of the people living at those crossroads. He holds an MFA from New York University's Graduate Film Program, where he earned the "Paulette Goddard" and "Warner Bros" Fellowships. His films have been broadcast in France (TV1), Spain (Canal+) and the United States (PBS), receiving numerous awards.

Refetoff's photography is featured in The Los Angeles Times, Hemispheres, and WhiteHot, amongst other publications. He has exhibited at Photo LA, the San Diego Art Institute, and numerous Month of Photography Los Angeles and Los Angeles Art Association/Gallery 825 solo and group exhibitions. In addition, he operates Chungking Studio, a portrait studio, commercial production and exhibition space on historic Chung King Road in Los Angeles' Chinatown.

Refetoff's directorial background informs his approach to photography in a variety of ways. His parallel careers as a location scout and as an editorial and fine art photographer are each characterized by an evocative, cinematic understanding of how scale, point of view, architecture, and motion can be expressed as both information about and experience of a given place. His current focus is an expansive set of portfolios surveying the human presence in the deserts of the American West. His fine art photography can be viewed at his website ospix.com.

 

Mule Train Winds through the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, CA - 2013Mule Train Winds through the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, CA - 20131st Place Award- Best Outdoor Photographic Series

Outdoor Writers Association of California - 2014

Mule Train Winds through Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, CA - 2013
2014 OWAC 1st Place Award - Best Outdoor Photographic Series

 

Christopher Langley, a life-long educator, has lived in and studied the Mojave Desert for over forty years. Achieving his BA in English-History at Dartmouth College, he first encountered the desert landscape teaching as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Khash, Iran. After teaching in the isolated New Idria, CA, mining camp's public school for 3 years, he went on to teach for 29 years in Lone Pine, CA.

A History-Geography Fellow at UCLA, teaching educators during summer sessions, Langley was appointed an American Memory Fellow at the Library Congress and worked as a Fulbright Fellow in Japan. This research and practicum focused on teaching history with primary sources, the suffrage movement, and women's rights, both in the U.S. and Japan. He is currently President of the Inyo Co. Board of Education and helps run an innovative program in "entrepreneurial education" at 24 L.A. Charter High Schools.

Langley works as a film historian, and is the founder of the Museum of Western Film in Lone Pine. He is also the Inyo County Film Commissioner, where he focuses on the desert's complex relationship with cinema and the story of our lives. Some of his publications include a history of Lone Pine, CA, a cultural history of Mount Whitney, and From Jayhawkers to Jawas: a Short History of Filming in Death Valley. As the founder of the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group, Langley's environmental advocacy won commendations, including a "National Conservation Cooperation Award" and a "Sierra Nevada Business Council 20/20 Vision Award."

 

Benny Eldridge - Argus, CA - 2014Benny Eldridge - Argus, CA - 2014

Benny Eldridge - Argus, CA – High & Dry Dispatch Sept 17, 2014

 

MORE ABOUT OWAC:

The Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC), is an association of media professionals who communicate the vast array of outdoor recreational opportunities and related issues in California and the surrounding western region. The membership includes newspaper and magazine staffers, freelance writers, radio broadcasters, video producers, editors, photographers, lecturers and information officers.

OWAC was founded in 1986 to expand public information on outdoor recreation and conservation, provide professional craft improvement, and increase recognition of outdoor media as a specialized field. The annual Craft Awards recognize and honor the finest work in outdoor communications.

High & Dry's dispatches are available for syndication. For details and inquiries, please email the contact below.

 


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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff alabama hills CA argus CA benny eldridge best nature photograph best outdoor feature photograph best outdoor media website best outdoor photographic series best overall photograph big bear lake CA california high desert color photography craft awards desert landscape photography desertscape digital infrared photography drought first place award grand prize green energy high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain kcet artbound lone pine CA mining town mojave desert outdoor photography outdoor writers association of california owac pacific crest trail palm springs life magazine renewable energy salton sea CA trona CA wasteland www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/7/high-dry-receives-awards-at-owac Wed, 08 Jul 2015 16:45:00 GMT
LANCASTER, CALIFORNIA: FROM ALFALFA TO "NET ZERO" CITY http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/7/lancaster-from-alfalfa-to-net-zero-city  

The weed-infested fields of West Lancaster, California were once perfect for growing alfalfa. They might still be if it should become economically advantageous again. Complex irrigation systems took care of the desert water needs for the seasonal crops. The fields today show the mottled patches and striated scars of past tilling.

These fields are no longer cultivated though. This agricultural past is memorialized by large concrete pillars dotting the flat land. These cement cylinders are monuments to the past, when the irrigation grid spread its life-giving liquid to the quilted fields of alfalfa. Now glistening sheets of solar panels, rigidly aligned to maximize the sunshine, are beginning to spread across the abandoned fields in dark, shiny linear arrays.

 

Storm Over Irrigation Towers - Lancaster, CA - 2014Storm Over Irrigation Towers - Lancaster, CA - 2014 Storm Over Irrigation Towers - Lancaster, CA - 2015

 

These fields are waiting for more solar arrays to be built there. Lancaster intends to become the net-zero city of the future. Driving along the rectilinear road system marked by numbers and letters, some of the straight-to-the-horizon roads are posted with crosses, plastic flowers and the names of traffic victims. They announce these undeviating roads and intersections are not that safe.

Here is the home of a man who collects old airplanes and jets. They are strewn about his front and side lawns. It is a desultory collection, the seeds to a private aeronautics museum he dreams. Rather than artifacts of a noble life in the air, they seem sad, patiently waiting to age and decay.

 

Roadside Crosses - 10th Street E & Avenue G - Lancaster, CA - 2014Roadside Crosses - 10th Street E & Avenue G - Lancaster, CA - 2014 Roadside Crosses - 10th Street E & Avenue G - Lancaster, CA - 2015

 

Between the wide-open fields there are occasional “McMansions.” They announce a form lacking any architectural style other than a grandiose, multi-storied, bold and ugly braggadocio. They stand to brag about their owner’s wealth. The neighborhood in between is wild, empty and succumbing to weeds and loose dirt. The sun beats down ready to be harnessed to meet the city’s goal of total energy self-sufficiency.

This dusty, flat land is subject to mudflows. You drive up into the low hills to the west where lakes have dried to hexagonal tiles with arching edges. The indigenous turtle population is gone. Two drought-tortured lakes, one stone dry, the other with some moisture and still mud-delicious, can no longer provide the fish sustenance or dissolved oxygen. These inhabitants are dead or have managed to move on in time. The lips of the lakes are marred with salt. Nearby a hesitant housing development regrets it chose this land for settlement.

 
SC Edison Neenatch Substation - Lancaster, CA - 2014SC Edison Neenatch Substation - Lancaster, CA - 2014 SC Edison Neenatch Substation - Lancaster, CA - 2015

 

In this near no-man’s land, forgotten and ignored, a city of the future lies spread across the Mojave plain. Lancaster dreams big dreams of its energy future. The Swinerton solar array is black, sleek and geometrically classic. The panels shine with the promise of industrial magic, converting sunbeams to dancing electrons through arcane practices. Now they are engineered to be scientifically disciplined: more obedient, reliable and predictable. A sign with an etched image in some voguish way shows engineers in hardhats pointing up towards the future. The figures are rigid in a faux Stalinist style of 1950s Russia. The Stalinist style is undoubtedly accidental. The image hopes to capture the spirit of this solar plant and of the city of Lancaster.

The panels all lean together to maximize their exposure towards the moving sun. They are a glassine chorus line with choreographed yet steadfast dancing moves as the sun passes overhead. Only an engineer or technician might find these dancers sexy, but they are seductive in their technological elegance.

 

Swinerton Renewable Energy Sign - Lancaster, CA - 2014Swinerton Renewable Energy Sign - Lancaster, CA - 2014 Swinerton Renewable Energy Sign - Lancaster, CA - 2015  -  Photo: Christopher Langley

 

Ordinance No. 997, written and approved by the Lancaster City Council, carries the dreams and vision of this populace. They are inspired and guided by Mayor R. Rex Parris, a political showman, to make Lancaster the first Net Zero city in the nation. They intend to produce more energy here than is consumed. The ordinance proclaims, “The City of Lancaster has been actively investigating options to procure and provide electric power to citizens with the intent of achieving greater local involvement over the provision of electric services and promoting competitively priced renewable energy.”

Partnerships are the way of the future in solar. In 2010, in partnership with SolarCity, Lancaster began a project to make solar installation for homes and businesses more affordable and more efficient. This is a major component in becoming the first Net Zero city in the world.

 

First Solar NRG Alpine Project - Lancaster, CA - 2012First Solar NRG Alpine Project - Lancaster, CA - 2012 Flagpoles - First Solar NRG Alpine Project - Lancaster, CA - 2012

 

Now the alfalfa fields are tessellating into solar arrays. Instead of obfuscating the view, or inspiring cries of “not in my backyard,” the dusty plains are now the engineered tablelands of the future. Lancaster is in a constant competition with its neighboring city, Palmdale, promoting industry to the point of absurdity with debatable business incentives.

Yet with solar, the path is clear and the conviction strong. Now green energy costs about fifteen percent more than traditionally generated electricity, but the future promises a price balance setting in.

In the meantime, Lancaster locks in this Net Zero development vision, tiling across their dusty desert with silvered dark panes of glass, covering the roofs of the city buildings with panels, and the homes of Lancaster with solar capacity.

Look upon this place. Here will rise a Net Zero city of the future.

-C.L.

 

Edison TTRP 3 & 9 Antelope 500kW Expansion - Lancaster, CA - 2014Edison TTRP 3 & 9 Antelope 500kW Expansion - Lancaster, CA - 2014Infrared Exposure Edison TTRP 3 & 9 Antelope 500kW Expansion - Lancaster, CA - 2015

 

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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix 10th street east Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff SC Edison agriculture avenue G california high desert co2 emissions crosses crossroads desert landscape photography desertscape digital pinhole photography east lancaster CA freeway grave markers green energy high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain highway 14 joshua tree lancaster landfill & recycling center mojave desert power lines renewable energy roadside memorials roadside monuments sign solar energy sun power transmission wires www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com yucca brevifloria http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/7/lancaster-from-alfalfa-to-net-zero-city Thu, 02 Jul 2015 11:30:00 GMT
THE SALTON SEA - PART 3: THERE’S LITTLE “THERE” THERE IN BRAWLEY ANY MORE http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/6/theres-little-there-there-any-more The smell of smoke still lingers in areas of downtown as a reminder to local merchants of the emotional and physical healing process still underway following a rash of structure fires months earlier.

 “It has really devastated Brawley,” American Beauty Academy owner Jeannie Jongeward said. “It’s going to take a long time if Brawley ever will be able to recoup from it.”

― Celeste Alvarez, Imperial Valley Press, Brawley Still Rising From the Ashes - August 4, 2013

 

Ropa de Calidad - Main Street - Brawley, CA - 2014Ropa de Calidad - Main Street - Brawley, CA - 2014

Ropa de Calidad - Main Street - Brawley, CA - 2014

 

The road curves around the Salton Sea, now hidden in the dark. A powerful locomotive rumbles nearby, paralleling the nearly empty highway. The engine is dragging an endless line of flatbed cars loaded with containers. This is a major shipping route going east and west.

Towards the horizon, a thermal plant steals heat from the molten core of the planet. It turns it to steam to turn the turbines. A plume of escaping vapor is illuminated like a ghost caught by a paranormal investigator’s camera. It is “free” energy. There are nearly 80 generating plants in the area suckled to the earth's cracks that ooze heat. In the night they are illuminated cities that promise excitement and nightlife. They deliver only rumble and steam clouds and the turning of cylinders to agitate electrons.

 

Freight Train - Salton Sea, CA - 2014Freight Train - Salton Sea, CA - 2014

Freight Train - Salton Sea, CA - 2014

 

The Salton Sea lurks in the dark: moist, poisoned and yet ever fecund at its edges. Much grows and much dies here. Everyone but the locals focus on the bad news.

Nyland goes by, then Calipatria but all is silent in the darkness. The Brawley Inn appears. Large truck-tired drivers have already de-cabbed for the night, but one motel room remains. There is a wet chemical smell in the wind. The air is fetid; life’s excretions are layered with decay and salt.

When the morning dawns, the air is still, pastel beautiful, with a gentle wind’s caress. By afternoon the landscape is one hundred degrees, heat exhausted and wind weary but still seductive. Main Street Brawley is obsessed with the past. Both Main Street and the side streets are lined by colonnades with a Spanish memory; sidewalks are edged by tropical plants like banana, bougainvillea and birds of paradise.

 

Medical Equipment Store - Main Street - Brawley, CA - 2014Medical Equipment Store - Main Street - Brawley, CA - 2014

Medical Equipment Store - Main Street - Brawley, CA - 2014

 

The historic bustle of shopping groups have been silenced. Everyone now owns a car. Avid consumers drive out to the strip malls. Once there were women in rebozos carrying parasols to avoid the sharp-edged sun rays, children in hand, out to meet other similar women for a chat.

The White Cross Pharmacy has Edward Hopper windows with white plaster and cream color stucco. The windows are full of walkers, rollators, potty chairs and crutches. Is the town full of failing elders? The sky is full of wispy waves and mares’ tails, and towards the sea to the west milky skies prevail.

Once this town knew exactly what it was, but now it engages in a desultory search for any identity that passes by. A man comes down the street. He is slightly overweight dressed in T-shirt and jeans. As he moves cautiously along, he puts a garbage can top back in place, picks up pieces of litter, and looks at the blackened walls of a fire ruined building and dreams. This is his town. He was born in Brawley, went to school here, but dropped out. He alludes to a run-in with the law, but goes no further to explain.

 

Main Street Market - Brawley, CA - 2014Main Street Market - Brawley, CA - 2014

Main Street Market - Brawley, CA - 2014

 

Off to New Mexico, he gets his life together, has two children, but things fall apart again. He returns to Brawley. His mother and brother die in car wreck down by the river. His grief still flickers across his eyes and lips.

Questioned, he says things are not that good but thinks they will get better. He points to the burned buildings where once a cosmetology academy did business. Smoke damage has marred the other businesses nearby. On either side of the Valley Medical Pharmacy there is a boarded up business. The street scene smiles like a meth addict missing teeth. The front of the pharmacy is particleboard. False brick paneling has been nailed to the plywood front, a cheap Fifties knock off. Farmacia Del Puebla is down the street. Across from there are the Cuindad Plaza Adult Apartments.

The man emulates optimism and says he will be getting a business going here, but never explains what that will be. He looks over at Christine’s Restaurant. A banner “Mexican and Seafood: Orders to Go” drapes the front. It is newly rehabbed and painted ochre with a green stripe. A rich brown color outlines the windows and doorframe. Next door an H & R Block office services humble taxpayers. In our egalitarian democracy even the poor get to pay income taxes.

 

Furniture Store - Main Street - Brawley, CA - 2014Furniture Store - Main Street - Brawley, CA - 2014

Furniture Store - Main Street - Brawley, CA - 2014

 

The man pauses in his meanderings down the street to talk general business outlook. “There are no jobs,” he emphatically reports. He discounts gold mining at Glammis, and the thermal plants, and the sugar factory, which he thinks is about to close. When queried about the huge agricultural fields, he sullenly reports that there are many farm jobs if someone would stoop to do that kind of work.

Yet, he thinks things will turn around soon. The tenacious people of Brawley and the Salton Sea have not given up. They do not want your pity or sympathy. This is home. They will stick it out, wait and, if they are lucky, work. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein of Oakland, there is no there there,* but that’s still plenty for these people.

 

Main Street Arcade - Brawley, CA - 2014Main Street Arcade - Brawley, CA - 2014

Main Street Arcade - Brawley, CA - 2014

 

*Author’s Note on Gertrude Stein and “No There There.” When Stein returned to her hometown of Oakland in 1935, nearly 45 years after she lived there, she could not find any of the places of her girlhood memories. Her childhood home and all the places around it were significantly different from her memories. She had grown up in a rural area of orchards and farms. Now it was urbanized. So when she wrote in Everybody’s Autobiography about there being “no there there,” she was not putting Oakland down. She was reflecting that nothing she remembered was still there. It was the painful nostalgia of loss that she was remarking. You truly can’t go home again.

There is a newly coined, semi-scientific word for that emotional feeling of loss associated with environmental change. It is called “solastalgia.”

C.L.

 


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info@desertdispatches.com (Desert Dispatches) #desertdispatches #ospix Christopher Langley Desert Dispatches Osceola Refetoff abandoned arcade brawley CA business district california desert colonnade color photography commercial zone desert landscape photography desolate drought economic failure environmental issues forsaken dreams geothermal power plants gertrude stein green energy high & dry: dispatches from the land of little rain human activity human enterprise imperial valley CA imperial valley press kcet artbound main street medical equipment store no there there salton sea CA small town solastalgia unemployment www.desertdispatches.com www.ospix.com http://www.desertdispatches.com/blog/2015/6/theres-little-there-there-any-more Mon, 08 Jun 2015 21:00:02 GMT