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One Time in the Desert

Who knows how irresponsible you need to be to run out of gas on the highway in a violent meth town in the middle of desert, but somehow a friend and I did it.
Κείμενο Liz Armstrong

Who knows how irresponsible you need to be to run out of gas on the highway in a violent meth town in the middle of desert, but somehow a friend and I did it. On our way to one of those “get-away-from-it-all” trips to Joshua Tree, suddenly the car just stopped working.

My friend walked the mile to the closest gas station, and while figuring out how the fuck to get the gas from the container into the car, lucky us, a drifter showed up to help.

“We don’t want the cops harassing us,” he said, pulling out a knife from his pocket. That knife was not used to stab us; it was actually put to use in refueling the car.

Going on and on about one’s magical trip out to the Mojave can be boring/cliché/rude, so I’ll cut to the chase:  a three-day trip with a couple friends doubled to six, during which we danced with and read poetry to one another while cooking our meals, smoked a lot of weed and ate a lot of stoner nachos, worked on stuff, made some art…. We soaked in a cedar hot tub under the stars to the soundtrack of the primo 939-square-mile Marine Corps base in adjacent 29 Palms testing their bombs or rifles or helicopters or whatever the hell was making all that faroff apocalyptic noise late at night.

We headed out into the dusty wilderness a few times, including a bar where the bouncers were the opening band and kicked us out of the stage area for not paying the cover charge to see them play.

True cracked-out desert-style, my dog got her face semi-mauled in a brawl, and I didn’t brush my hair the whole time I was there. I’m still combing out my uni-dread.

On the way home, the windmill farm was eerily dead still.

It's good this magical desert journey is a cliché; it means a lot of people are having this experience. The reason is because there is such a gorgeous place to go for solitude. We’re lucky that most cities in this country have some kind of haven within a few hours’ drive. So sign the petitions to keep casinos the fuck away (that's an option on the table in Joshua Tree right now) and for crying out loud, please do not use formerly sacred sites such as Giant Rock as a place to try out your tagging and beer-bottle smashing skills.

(Even if it is slightly funny to see SLAYER graffiti on a mountain in the desert.)

On top of that, at the presently sacred sites, such as shrines or manmade places of beauty purposely designed to promote your wellness, you’re an idiot if you desecrate the experience by, say, smoking and being a loudmouth on the premises.

Such were the actions of urban tourists with arrested development the day we visited the Integratron, a giant Tesla coil dome that astrophysicist George Van Tassel started building in 1954. Designed to rejuvenate and recharge the human body by generating a negative ion field, the Integratron was based on theories from Nikolai Tesla, sacred geometry, and information Van Tassel gathered while visited by extraterrestrials from Venus. He died before it could be finished, but the sisters who own the dome now use its acoustically perfect interior for delivering public (and private) sound bathing. That is when you lie on the floor in a group like a Heaven’s Gate reunion while the ultra-pure and soothing tones of live crystal bowl chiming reverberate throughout your nervous system and you chilllll.

It’d been one of Los Angeles’s outlying best-kept secrets, until Anthony Bourdain “discovered” it last summer, and Vanity Fair “found” it in their February issue too. I work at VICE, I shouldn’t be discouraged when I see a pack of cool kids in sunglasses strolling out of something like this. But I was. Last time I went, four years ago, there was a lot more quiet sincerity amongst the attendees, probably because they were all like 60-year-old health freak desert tourists. But it’s nice to see something small and grassroots and truly fucking weird make money and not die into oblivion because it isn’t sponsored by some corporation. So if you go, knock off the attitude, be kind, and leave Giant Rock alone. It'd be nice to save some space like this for ourselves… and we want the aliens to come back too.