-- Matthew 6:19-20
My mom came to visit.
The day after she arrived, I bundled her into a rental car, and we drove four and a half hours through the Mojave desert to Vegas, where we parked our car in the obscenely large parking lot of an obscenely large casino complex, and wandered past rows of slot machines to arrive, finally, at the place where they were holding an enormous bellydancing spectacular.
Now, I have not seen Rachel Brice dance in person for years; I think the last time I saw her perform was the year we were both performing at Spirit of the Tribes (and teaching there), and then we were both at the same Suhaila workshop in 2006 or so, but it's been a while since I've seen her dance in costume, so that was nice. It was REALLY nice to shock the heck out of my friends who didn't know I was going to be there -- watching Amy and Heather's eyes go wide as they tried to place me was probably one of my favorite moments. Having nightmares about removing shredded paper from my ears because my mother snores like a stevedore and I had to jam wadded up Kleenex into my aural passages to cut the noise was NOT my favorite moment.
Then we drove back to LA, and immediately dropped off the rental car and got in my car (which is making an intriguing rubbing-metal noise that is melodically similar to bottles clanking together) and drove to the Venice Boardwalk. Then we drove to the Santa Monica Pier. It is worth pointing out that the part of these two famous LA landmarks that my mom liked the most was seeing a park that features in a crossover episode of Grey's Anatomy. "I think that's the exact spot!" she squealed with unsurpressed joy. Yeah, the one with a homeless person sleeping in it.
We went to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which cannot be explained. Then we went home, which can be explained. The next day, we drove down to Hollywood Blvd so she could buy souvenirs for her workmates, and we ogled Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the crowds of Japanese tour groups taking pictures of Marilyn Monroe's footprints. Then we ate cream puffs. We also consumed mass quantities of soda.
Then Saturday morning we got up and drove to Joshua Tree. We stopped at the Purifoy Art thingy (I hesitate to call it a museum or gallery), which is essentially piles of toilet seats and canteen trays screwed together and rusting out in the desert, which is amazing. Justin's friends Dave and Ray were with us. At one point, mom came to find me. "I want to show you something I think you might have missed," she said, and led me to a cave-like tunnel lined with debris. There, between two stacks of sun-bleached book pages, was a tiny nest woven of what looked like electrical wires, and in the nest were two pinkish opalescent eggs. "The bird flew off when I walked in here," she said. It was so perfect and amazing. Later, in bed that night, Justin said that seeing the eggs had been the highlight of his day.
After Purifoy, we drove to the Integratron for a friend's wedding. The wedding was full of more laughter than most other weddings I've been to, where it seems like laughing is against the law. Also there was a tiny perfect cowboy with blonde hair who wandered from lap to lap in the congregation as we sat on the floor, piling over onto people's legs and grinning a wonderful gap-toothed grin. It was COLD that night. But we slept in tents anyway.
The next day, we drove to: the Desert Christ Park, Bombay Beach, the Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, and the Slabs. As we were driving to the Slabs, Mom said, out of nowhere, "This is like the moths and rust tour!" And it was. We drove past so much strange desert art, slowly collapsing, made by strange desert people, who were also slowly collapsing. We found houses made of driftwood, and trailers half-buried, encased in glistening salt crystals...an entire abandoned record collection in what used to be someone's living room, solidified into rock by the sun. We spoke to Leonard about how God spoke to him an told him to build a monument to Jesus with his bare hands and adobe; he makes the flowers by splatting on extra adobe and then pushing his fist into it. We spoke to Dan, the guy who built the Slabs LIbrary with it's librarian, Rosalie, and carefully weighted the doors with cans of dirt so they would swing shut. "The gas station in Niland has free water," he offered us, and when we stopped there to fill our gas tank on the way back to LA, we saw someone in a pickup with two 50-gallon drums pull up to the water spigot.
I know where I want to go, and it is not a city; it is the desert, and it is a free paradise where everything is swept with dust, and it reaches 125 degrees on summer nights, but you can sleep under a tree in a library you have built for yourself. I'm going to go be the resident dance teacher and therapist for the Slabs and no-one can stop me; one day you'll look up and I just won't be there. My only forwarding address will be "Niland, CA" and when you come looking, just like that, I'll be covered with salt, hardened by sun, into something strange and new and happy.