Tag Archives: california

October 29, 2016, Nearing Algodones Dunes

Just passed a citrus grove a bit back. Lemon trees or orange trees, some date palms around: this lone green spot in a landscape of tan, brown, sand, taupe. How queer and lush and so removed from its environment it seems.

This is what humans do when they feel foreign to the land, the environment in which they find themselves; they transform it into a place that is familiar and comfortable to them, hospitable to their needs, instead of appreciating, respecting it for what it is. In effect a judgement is made, and that judgment is usually that the land has no value, because we all want things that produce for us, and if the land doesn’t do that, well, we can’t for some reason see that the value of the land is in its uniqueness, that it is valuable simply as it is because IT IS, and so by claiming that it has no inherent value we are actually devaluing the very real value that it does have in being what it is in order that we may turn it into a machine, basically, that churns out things that we say are valuable (namely goods to be sold for cash, because in the world of humans very little is more valuable than money).

Coming up on the Algodones dunes now. The name implying what it is: a vast tract of sand…. Just sand. Mounds and mounds that go on for such great distances. I can see them from this hill I am driving along. It’s a beach that stretches out into nothing but more beach rolling, rolling along like great ocean swells. It’s, it’s an incredible sight. Mountain peaks in the distance. It does remind me a bit of Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, but I think this is on a vaster scale, though the mountains aren’t nearly so terrific and awe-inspiring.

Sort of a martian landscape, but up ahead it looks like there is a convoy of RV’s camped out in the desert. A common thing for retirees to come down and escape the cold winters, but I could be wrong. I can’t exactly tell what these are from here as its a good distance.

They’re trailers. Part of these dunes are used as a recreational area. The highway splits the area into two parts, left is the wilderness which I’ll be able to access further down, and to the right is the recreational area. Lots of people with ATV’s, dune buggies, lifted pickup trucks, etc. tearing around out there. It’s basically one big party, especially along the highway where everyone is camped out. There’s a party going on out in the desert too. Just a different kind of party. One fueled by adrenaline and gasoline. It’s not what I came for, but I’m interested….


October 23, 2016, Route 1 Somewhere On

To the left of me are mountains, their naked bodies showing, and looking just like the flatirons in Boulder, like bare-chested men bronzing in the sun (such little sun, though), and to my right the spot-lighted ocean, overhung with dismal clouds, and pricked with a few oil rigs far out near its horizon, and the occasional splash of sunlight sparkling on its wave crested surface.

I don’t know what to look at. I am dazzled. My visual sense overwhelmed by riches and extraordinary beauty in abundance in all directions, even on this dreary day.

And around a bend I come, peering at an arm jutting into the steely-grey waters like a creature crawling into the ocean, or out of it (Golbez’s arm crawling across a crystal floor searching, searching for something), smeared with starlight in places.

Smeared with starlight in places.

October 23, 2016, Around Santa Maria, CA

California and her rolling hills. Eternally rolling along the 101. Trees sprouting from these hills like spores on a mold. A prehistoric landscape untouched by the hand of man. I see some fences of course. A cow here and there. But otherwise it’s nature, nature in its unaltered original form. Some of the tops of the hills and those in the distance are veiled, obscured in a mist: mere soft silhouettes. Appropriate, because I’m looking far, far into the past…

And I think back to yesterday along Big Sur. About people trying to capture moments and memories with a camera (like clawing at the air, trying to grab it, grasp it, hold it in one’s arms), and watching while driving along the highway, watching the waves hammering continuously against the rock walls, and after we go to bed at night this living world continuing to hammer against these rock walls which will continue to deny it, absorbing blow after blow. And this goes on eternally. After we sleep. After our deepest of sleeps.

California is a magical place. What must settlers have felt when they first arrived here to this bounty? This impossible world where it is spring and summer year round. It is very much an Eden, like that from which Adam and Eve were tossed out I imagine. And here I am, rediscoverying this lost land buried in antiquity and legend. What right do I have to be here?, for surely I am no better than Adam or Eve (though I might have wisdom enough not to take advice from a serpent or snake, unless he was a very tricky and persuasive one, even if I am in the habit of trusting easily).

These hills remind me of bread dough a little bit: in their smoothness very much uniform. Like agglomerations of soil covered with a smooth, even carpet of grass, like a table cloth thrown over a dining table, then stuck with trees like a pin-cushion.

October 22, 2016, Big Sur

Driving Route 1, Big Sur. Pinned into the hillside to the right and the left of me, like the bristles of a hairbrush, are thousands of frondsy things, like cattails wafting in the wind; and the sun slowly sinking lower and lower, lower and lower to the pacific, glowing like a pearl, softly, embedded amongst gauzy clouds that drift in the sky like gossamer curtains lifted on a breeze. And around the bend of the road the shoreline rocky and rugged, like a brass knuckled fist limned in white, the water crashing up against it relentlessly, splashing hard and high, seafoam flying like spittle.

Signs for Vista Point. Cars and RVs parked, and people standing on the edge with cameras in their hands pressed to their faces, or their faces peering into a smart-phone taking pictures to commemorate a moment.  THE moment.

It’s difficult to deny oneself the pleasure of creating and holding on to memories like these (and really, why should one?). But the sun is dropping lower and lower. [These frondsy things are wonder incarnate.] The waves are always crashing against the rocks. The rocks are always there, pummeled by the waves. At times their jaggedness cloaked in secrecy, enveloped by a thick fog; other times poignant, acute, sharp enough to draw blood.

What can a photograph say? What feelings and emotions might one dredge up a year or more in the future?  Do these people grasp the magnitude of what they are seeing? Do even I with my words and poetic sentiment have an inkling? Are we not all headed into a night to which we will succumb? And yet this night comes repeatedly over the Earth, but always she experiences a morning, a new sun, a bright day, a warm wind….

79 – Two Kinds of Desert

I left Brawley and drove east to Tucson, or nearabouts. The temperatures were in the 90’s and the landscape was dead, or if it wasn’t dead it was dying. Nothing but sand, and the road scoured clean from its blowing incessantly. Some gaunt, skeletal, shrubs, all looking very much stressed by their existence in this demanding environment. About thirty minutes east of Brawley are the Algodones Dunes. The highway splits the dunes into two parts; on the north side is the wilderness which is accessed by a dirt road on its eastern edge, and to the south is the recreation area which allows for dune buggies, dirt bikes, jeeps and anything else capable of taking on the waves of loose sand that are the dunes. Stopping at an overlook off of Hwy. 78, I was fascinated to watch the goings on: all these many and various motorized vehicles zooming and zipping up and over and atop these sand hills, across the landscape for miles around. It’s a form of recreation that doesn’t interest me to pursue myself, but seems quintessentially American, and so fascinates me from the standpoint of the purpose of my trip, which is to discover and photograph things symbolic or representational of America.

I stayed long enough until I felt like I saw all I needed to see and took enough photos to satisfy my curiosity and amazement at the area, before moving along to the wilderness area, which is why I came out all this way in the first place. Interestingly, I think I like the representational aspects of the dirt bikes and dune buggies—tiny specks some of them, like they are themselves mere grains of sand, in this enormous, stark landscape—more.

I was pleasantly surprised despite not hiking all the way to the dunes, which began a couple of miles from the dirt access road. Between these two places was a firmly packed sandy plain spotted with hardy, woody shrubs and bushes (skeletal and gaunt ones too), many of which were leafless and lifeless looking—sticks and twigs bundled together and stuck into the ground by some unseen hand—though many others were not, but were in fact quite sizeable, green even, and lush, which gradually became looser mounds, undulating and dune-like as I moved westward. Feeling the slight pressure of a schedule on my mind I unfortunately did not spend as much time as I would have liked in the dunes (nor walked as far), but I was happy to experience all that I was able in that short time, and to have seen and heard what little wildlife I did in such a vast, dry place. That wildlife included some sort of grasshopper, which was fairly numerous based on their soundings I heard, a Black-tailed jackrabbit, and a Zebra-tailed lizard, several of which I saw scurrying away from me, black and white striped tail erect like a flag. Additionally, I heard some sort of songbird (a sparrow likely) but didn’t see it. I’m going to post up some pictures below of these different places that share the same name and are only separated by a highway, yet are so very obviously different in their appearance and intent of use.

After fixing a flat tire with the help of a couple of nearby Border Patrol agents (my car apparently only came equipped with a jack, no bar for turning said jack, and also no wrench for removing the lugs from the wheel) I continued east where I would end up in Casa Grande in a room large enough to host a yoga class, at a cheap motel owned and recently renovated by Motel 6. In between the dunes and the motel were, strangely enough, a cotton field, corn field, as well as other crops being grown in of all places a desert. Truly baffling that in this extremely arid part of Arizona that there should be any sort of agriculture, but particularly cotton which requires copious amounts of water.

And then there is the Sonoran Desert, beautiful with its forests of Saguaro Cacti (and a sprinkling of a few other low growing shrubs), the only specks of green in this blackened, clay-colored monotony of small mountains and large hills, all jagged like broken teeth, bursting upward like tumors through the skin of the earth, like an inversion of a ragged wound torn into the flesh of an earthly body. Inhospitable. Violent. Primeval. Raw. A landscape of barbarism if there ever was one. I met a skinny, dirty, bearded man with a kind and inward looking countenance at a rest stop, though, where I thought to make a cup of coffee. It was a nice opportunity for a conversation with a fascinating individual, and a time to relax and soak in the landscape, instead of being locked in my car viewing everything through a windshield like watching a television screen, and appreciate it for what it is, which is something absolutely magical. A place where no life should exist, yet has sprung up. A place that no human should see and live to tell of it. Like going to the moon without a suit that preserves some form of atmosphere breathable, hospitable.


This batch of photos is from my drive down the coast of California, including a few pictures of the Henry Miller Memorial Library, various images in Big Sur, some photos of Santa Cruz Island, one of five islands that make up Channel Islands National Park, and the graffiti and date palms that I wrote about in my most recent post. Oh, and two images from Venice Beach. Enjoy.

Bartavelle is Always On

A cacophony
but through the window
my vision sharply focused: PEACE.

Interpol dancing loudly on the stereo,
the ‘clank-clank!’ of dishes,
shouted announcement of prepared food: “Ling! Ling!”,
the rip-roar of a motorcycle in the parking lot,
a burst of steam from the espresso machine.

But outside, the wind tickling the trees tickling the sky white-streaked and blue.

There is a peace here maintained by staring out the window.

There is a joy here audible if one listens.

Portrait of Bartavelle

fruit, and cheeseboards, and books
lattes, and glasses of lemonade
on small, circular, wood-slat tables
bathe in the sun
reading books
reading phones
standing in line staring at bread
waiting for the line to move
the parking lot empty
the intersection full
the wind turns
the trees dance
children shout
wafting toast aroma flutters out the door

BART or The Significance of Public Transport

Sleeping faces
Nose-in-a-book faces
Enchanted by smartphone faces
Hidden-by-sunglasses faces
Laughing faces
Straight faces
Pale faces
Dark faces
Multicultural faces
Animated faces
Faces in repose
Faces in love
Profiles of faces
Children’s faces
Teen faces
Adult faces
A beautiful face directly across from me
Smooth and youthful faces
Pockmarked and wrinkled faces
Bearded faces
Clean-shaven faces
A tattooed face
Inquisitive faces
Concentrating faces
Looking and questioning faces
Apologetic faces
Weary faces
Calm faces
Sunlight through the windows on all of their faces faces

There’s an orange peel under one of the seats
And this train is hurtling along at incredible speed.

A Day and a Walk Around Berkeley

I’ve been in Berkeley for a month now. My second day here I decided to take a couple hour walk around the neighborhood and the main commercial area, Shattuck and University streets, with my camera for fun, exploratory purposes.

Oh, and the picture of the boat was taken the morning of my drive over from Davis. It’s perched on a bluff, a few hundred feet above a reservoir. Why it was left, I couldn’t say, but it had obviously been there a long time (months? years?).