The Cabezon Dinosaurs are another weird tourist attraction I never took the time to appreciate when I lived in LA. Perhaps because it's more of a trap—a truck stop off the interstate jammed into a fast food junction—than an actual attraction. But it is very American. One of our great monuments built into a commercial experience and made holy by Hollywood. Plus I even managed to get some old-fashioned light-leak happening there, no iPhone app required.
I have a special attachment to the deserts of California, in particular Yucca Valley. When I was young, my father bought a few acres of land out there and had this dream of building a house in the middle of nowhere. He would load up our family in an old Landcruiser jeep he had refurbished and drive us out there to do donuts around shrubs and dry lake beds. I'd like to say I looked forward to it and loved it for the grand adventure it was. But the truth is, my brother, sister and I were mostly sullen about it. It was a long drive, we wanted to stay home and watch TV, read our Sweet Valley High books. Sunsets were boring, and we were teenagers.
I learned much later that my father's attachment to this strange piece of land arose out of his desire to return home. He was born and raised in Karachi, and gave up his Pakistani citizenship for a new life in America. The house in the desert was both a pipe dream, and a recovering of the past. We lived in the suburbs of LA, but the desert was the place that most called to him.
On a recent trip to California, I spent the day driving out to Yucca Valley. It's changed a lot since the 90s. There are tracts of suburban style homes out there now. But the state parks and unpaved dirt roads remain as they ever were. After living abroad for many years, I find driving out to the desert reassuring. The endless stretches of road on the 60 East and State Route 62 instantly drop me back into an American state of mind. I look at the occasional tumbleweed caught in the undercarriage of speeding cars and feel a bit of regret — for those years when I would not allow myself to enjoy this place — but also deep satisfaction, knowing that like my father, I return to it because it always brings me closer to home.
more from the expired film treasure trove.
One of the best things about Palm Springs is of course the mid century architecture. These are the kinds of buildings I grew up seeing everywhere in Southern California. Having lived in a city as small as Wellington for several years now, I am intrigued by the idea that the scale of America still allows for the common site of urban ruins. Buildings, mini malls, hotels, homes, and schools that fall out of use, into disrepair, and remain that way because there is always more empty land to be developed somewhere else. And because the new shiny thing often holds greater allure.
This particular dealership has probably been closed for years. If it ever gets reappropriated I hope they hang on to that "mac macgruder" font.
Developing a roll of film always feels like opening up a box of Cracker Jacks. Do people even know what Crack Jacks are anymore?
Growing up, Palm Springs always felt like California's back yard. The place my family visited for long weekends. My father and uncles would pile all of us kids in their cars and race from the suburbs of San Gabriel all the way to Palm Springs. I use the word "race" loosely, as it mainly involved driving their sedans as far above the speed limit as they could manage in weekend traffic while eluding CHP. I don't recall if we even wore seat belts- it was a simpler, more dangerous, more carefree time. The loser lost face and was the last to hit the pool.
Our vacations involves spending as much time in the water as possible. We'd drive by the tourist attractions like the Aerial Tramway without a second glance. It is only in coming back to California from abroad that I find I can behave like a tourist and see it from its proper vantage point. I missed you Palm Springs.