joshua tree national park straddles both the colorado desert & the mojave desert in eastern california. the park was originally declared a national monument in 1936 & re-designated a national park in 1994 after congress passed the ‘california desert protection act’. taking up nearly 800,000 acres, the park itself is slightly larger than the state of rhode island. joshua tree is named for its trademark vegetation, the yucca brevifolia, which is native to the mojave desert.
Salvation Mountain, deep in the California desert, is what’s known as a “visionary environment” or an extensive art installation intended to express the intense personal experience of its creator. This monument, built & maintained by Leonard Knight until his death in 2014, is built of adobe, straw, & literally thousands of gallons of lead-free paint.
The philosophy of the site hinges on the Sinner’s Prayer, an evangelical Christian term referring to a prayer of repentance. In creating the mountain, Knight felt he had been called by God to share His love.
The site is now maintained by a rag-tag collection of volunteers, most of whom live in the surrounding desert area known as “Slab City”.
At low tide you can walk all the way around the island of Le Mont Saint Michel in the sticky silt. There are tiny details, from chains & pipes to dead creatures revealed only when the sea is out.
A census-delegated place in California’s Riverside county, Whitewater began as a watering stop for travelers on the Bradshaw Trail between San Bernadino & the Arizona Territory in 1862. Still home to a small population, Whitewater is now known for its trout farm in the Whitewater river canyon.
Due to the effects of recent wildfires, the popular swimming hole in Whitewater river along interstate 10 is closed to the public. But the signs warning of imminent flash flood danger & high penalty fines don’t stop intrepid visitors from jumping in for a refreshing dip.
mecca california is an unincorporated community along the north shore of the salton sea in southern california's colorado desert. the sea & the surrounding settlements are almost directly on top of the famed san andreas fault.
the area surrounding the salton sea had a short life as a resort town in the 1950's, but the ever-increasing pollution of the lake all but ended tourism in the area. the sea is now surrounded by the sun bleached corpses of fish & water birds poisoned by its toxic waters, as well as the remains of shops, resorts, & motels either totally abandoned or repurposed by the community's handful of current residents.
I imagine myself laying in the waist deep grass of the normandy marshlands. it rolls out in every direction until it simply ends on the coast with the creeping high tide. the end is not the hard line the map makes it out to be, but rather it is a place where greenyellow blurs into slowly rolling grey. I watch as my boots slough mud on the trampled blades.
I can't remember the location of the market, only that we had highlighted its general vicinity on our folded map. first we found an enclosed space, like the pike place market I had visited as a child, most of its stalls shuttered for the day or for the summer vacation. disappointed, we walked around back & into a bustling square where vendors had laid out their cornucopia of wares on well worn tables.
we wander between the rows of books, knick knacks, antiques, & clothes. I buy a small silver box, tarnished to a dark grey. priced at 15 euro, but I only pay 10. past the square a street is transformed into a fruit market, bees flocking to sliced watermelon & split open pomegranate.
Brocante is colloquial french for flea market. the formal form is marché aux puces (literally "walk of fleas").
walking through the grey of a reykjavík summer day, harpa rises up along the coast like a futuristic glass barnacle.
I wander inside to escape the cold. everything is blue hued. the sail boats in the harbour perfectly still.
holding its first concert in 2011, the harpa concert hall replicates the basalt landscape of iceland using sculpted & coloured glass. construction began in 2007 but was halted during the 2008 icelandic financial crisis until the government decided to complete the project. because of the crisis, for several years harpa was the only construction project occurring in iceland. it is now the home of the iceland symphony orchestra & the icelandic opera.
a tuesday morning strolling among the monuments to the dead in père lachaise. I have since discovered that the cemetery was opened exactly 184 years before my birth on 21 may 1804 (I come along on the same day in 1988).
the altars to the dead in père lachaise are spectacular. many topped with elaborate sculptures, stained glass windows, & miniature gothic cathedrals. this was not a place meant to be left abandoned. the dead would be expecting their survivors to stop by for a visit.
père lachaise cemetery is the largest of its kind within paris' city limits. it is the final resting place of a long list of celebrated luminaries including oscar wilde, edith piaf, marcel proust, & jim morrison. receiving more than three million visitors per year, père lachaise is the most visited cemetery in the world.
in the summer sun, people are out on the streets of paris. not just tourists, but locals who, for whatever reason, didn't leave the city for the nationwide august holidays. the markets & cafes are busy despite the heat & the otherwise empty city chatters with french, english, italian, german, & spanish.
just after dawn I get lost in the presidio & eventually find my way out into the haight-ashbury. the streets are largely empty, with only the odd groggy commuter clutching their coffee as they wait for the walk signal. I find a parking spot half a block from the intersection of haight & ashbury, which I'm certain wouldn't be there any later in the day. the morning is cool & the fog hangs in low & heavy. my los angeles blood can't bear to be out too long. I walk a half block in each direction, taking in the multi-coloured buildings & old victorian houses. the streets are quiet. none of the shops are open. I think about the east village in new york. I think about what these places used to mean, before you had to be a millionaire to afford their wood floor apartments & local coffee shops. I think about where all the art has gone, when profit becomes more important.
spent a couple of days last week driving up the california coast. briefly stopped in san francisco to explore. between the rolling fog, the pre-sunrise wakeup call, & the getting lost in sloped narrow streets I found some interesting plant life.