Out past the northeastern exurbs of Los Angeles, past the Nazified city council of Santa Clarita, past the desolation of Palmdale where everyone bought houses thinking the property-speculation bubble would extend northeast but never did, underwater in debt for life, are small places barely worth map-dots. Dots called Mojave, Boron, California City, all at the edge of stifling wasteland where no sane man would of volition live, only targeting ranges and high-desert for two-hundred miles between there and Vegas, that debtor’s hell of its own. Dots built believing Edwards Base would bloom metropolis beside it, even though folks with any other options would never live in boiling hell where even tumbleweeds can’t thrive. California City was planned on two-hundred square miles with the expectations of two-hundred thousand people in the Fifties but just twelve thousand ever showed, abandoned street markers wearing away from intermittent gusts of sand, doing as erosion inevitably does. I should know, my brother owns land near an abandoned gold mine out there, goes there twice a year, never finding more than palmful of pretty-but-worthless garnet. God loves metaphors like that, I’ve learned, even if She’s unsubtle with her parables.
Drive into California City at desert fringe, the first sign you’ll see is for a gas station with three numbers advertised, one for regular, one for premium and a third for racing fuel. Step inside to pay for your hopefully-not-racing gasoline, you’re the only one not dappled with prison tattoos. In their own way, the nowheres at Mojave’s rim equal-opposite to L.A., places not of ceaseless fame, rather eternal forgetfulness, a state often better than forgiveness as even the forgiven are regarded with wary remembrance of past absolutions. In the Highest Desert, they just do meth, crash dune buggies, shoot rifle into mountain range, stage recreations of Mad Max as summer festivals and wait for their own worn-down lives to finally erode to nothingness themselves.
Frank the Sasquatch could travel up there, time to time, not because the curse on far-away L.A. allowed him stealth, rather all ignoring each other’s peccadilloes in a grim assumption that their own are likely more horrible yet. What’s selling coffee to some furry in a fetish-suit when you sell army-navy surplus to Klansmen? Asked how Frank handled being covered with thick hair in that particularly-blistering heat, he replied “Spend enough time among people, you learn how to get used to anything, for better and for worse.”
Not far from my brother’s barren claim, there’s a plateau festooned with the remains of countless metallic balloons from the amusement parks of Southern California. Lost from crying children’s hands into the jetstream, they fly until their helium runs out then fall to the plateaus at Mojave’s edge. That’s what happens after the gold rush, after the property bubble bursts, after you realize you’ll never be famous, you float down to a comforting forgetfulness until you too give way to the dusts of time. “God and Her graceless metaphors,” Frank agreed, “the melodramatic hack.”
Last updated June 23, 2020