Sunday, October 19, 2008


What better way to spend a Friday, after going to see Justin's septuagenarian friend Ruth (whom he met through the Swedish club he belongs to) play old-style country music in a restaurant called "Casa de Carlos", than driving to Mojave, finding a cheap motel, and doing a photo shoot amidst its wrinkling wallpaper?

I've never been to Mojave, but I do love deserts.  I love the dryness and the flatness and the way the light looks and how people are; if you ever want to see some truly wacky conceptual art, go to the desert.  People build seventeen-foot high Lego models of mermaids and secret them in a canyon somewhere, just because they can.  They mold their front lawn into a replica of Three Mile Island.  They develop a giant teeter-totter, used for transporting dogs from one end of the house to the other.  They're weird, desert people.

So when Justin said, "What do you want to do tonight?" after we demolished a plate of guacamole and listened to "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys", I said, "Drive to Mojave, find a really cheap motel, and do a photo shoot in it."

We were on the road about an hour later.  We looked up motels on the trusty iPhone, and I picked the ones that had the most grammatically incorrect names.  As it turned out, two of them were right next to each other (and one was essentially part of the town liquor store) so we could cross-check the rooms for cheesiness.  The one we found had brown flowered wallpaper, chipped furniture, and a surprisingly comfortable and clean bed.  We did not, alas, have cause to use the shower, but it had been Sanitized For Our Protection.

The next morning, we drove around until the found the Mojave Army Surplus store, owned by an eighty year old man and run by his daughter.  Their back yard was a tumultuous wreckage of ropes, ammo cases, storage units and an old plywood helicopter, apparently used as a prop in the movie "The Sixth Day."  We knew this because there was a carefully lettered sign underneath it, which also pointed out that it had starred "Arnold Schwartzenegger -- Our Governor."  After rolling in ecstasy through their piles of army uniforms, we asked to shoot nudes in the backyard, were told yes, and had just started when a bunch of Mexicans showed up in a pickup truck to set up a carport with the eighty-year-old owner.  I kept crouching behind things so as not to flash them my naked bod.  It required some acrobatics.  Particularly when the small children showed up.

After that, we went to the Mojave Airport and took a tour; it's a deserted "boneyard" for airplanes, where old planes are stored for parts or because they don't meet noise regulations and airlines can't fly them anymore.  There are planes from Aloha Air and Japanese shipping companies and John Travolta and Mythbusters apparently goes out there and blows things up from time to time.  We were not, alas, allowed to take pictures or get out of the car, which is too bad, because I desperately wanted to scramble inside the planes with their gaping, tantalizing doors.  But it was not to be.

What WAS to be was discovering the Mojave Thrift Store, and buying old postcards of places I have never been, and pictures of weddings I have never gone to.  We bought a postcard of horses that had a blank address field but a completely filled out message with no greeting or signature, and mailed it to Justin's friend Adam with no explanations, addressed in my handwriting, posted from the Mojave post office.  I hope he never figures it out.  I love buying old pictures; sometimes I scan them and send them to FOUND Magazine, but sometimes I just keep them for myself.  I plan to frame these -- a triplet -- and hang them in my future house.  You know, if I ever live somewhere again.

Today we went for a walk to get Justin a library card, and then continued up Vineland to fondle books at Aroma, where I would love to work someday if we weren't in a depression and they were hiring.  On the way back, we passed a young man sitting on a bass drum and playing the accordion, surrounded with detritus of other musical instruments, and two other young people dancing next to him.  We offered to help carry their instruments to their friend's car if he would keep playing the accordion; the girl half of the dancing couple said he should only play the accordion if we agreed to walk in a brisk marching step, so we did.  And he played an immensely familiar Balkan song that I could not figure out, but it turns out they were Fishtank Ensemble.  And they're playing at the Roxy tomorrow.  So we're going.  It also turns out that MC Chris is playing at the Roxy right before they are.  So we're going to that too.

4 comments:

kittarina said...

Hey, I was just looking at your schedule and we are going to be in Australia at the same time. I will be spending 2 months there from mid-Feb on! :) I know it is a huge country but maybe we will wind up in the same place at the same time! Stranger things have happened! LOL

kittarina said...

oh wait, I just saw it said 2010! Oops, I will be there 2009. Oh well! :)

MaggieMayDay said...

I love the desert, all the different deserts. Ever since dad was stationed in China Lake, CA, I knew I was a desert rat at heart. I live in a desert; beneath the trees and green suburban lawns, Utah knows it is a desert.

Although China Lake was a Naval Weapons Station during the 60s, which may have something to do with the ludicrous cancer rate among us four siblings. One down, one sick, one survivor (me, twice) and one potential if he skips a colonoscopy. The desert and cancer, hand in hand.

~J~ said...

This is one of those entries that makes me miss you so much that my heart hurts a little. (It would hurt more if I wasn't a sociopath.) I've never been to the desert. Although there is a story-high model of the space shuttle sitting on an undersized doghouse near my old residence, so perhaps I had desert neighbors...