Somewhere past Yuma, now just across the California border. Everything looks like another planet. Hoth perhaps? Billy quipped, “Is that a banther? Are those sand people- OHHH-OHHH!” Sand dunes the color of skin span the horizon on every side below a sky the color of quartz. On either side of us are these walls of dunes, with Mexico somewhere looming to the left. We drove through the inspection station earlier. Matt exclaimed in a panic, “Everyone, throw out your fruit! Throw out your fruit!” He scrambled through his bag of goodies, sifting through bags of food hunting for these illegal foodstuffs on par with illicit narcotics or unlicensed/un-social security card-holding brown people. Then we saw the digital sign, telling us: “No Inspections Today.” Matt breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
MUSIC IN VAN TODAY: Peachcake, Ethel Meserve, Dakota to Dakota, Venetian Snares, Slowdive, Biggie Smalls, Fugazi, Panthers, Bright Calm Blue, Black Flag….
As we drive through this constantly changing geography, I’m reminded of some car-racing game I played ages ago on Nintendo. You drove through all sorts of regions and climates. Most of us live through video games and television and the internet. I am happy actually out here and not in a box.
This is serious desert now, with olive and coal-colored mountains all around us. Green shrubs sprout like Chia pets all over the ground; sharp, thick, thin-leaved bushes. I see the occasional abandoned house with no windows like a corpse with eyeless eye sockets. What happened to its inhabitants? What took its life? The highway twists and turns inexorably towards San Diego. Back in Louisiana, 10 went for dozens of miles on pillars built upon water and swamp. How long must it have taken to construct these roadways?
I look out now to see hills of giant boulders, some as tall as skyscrapers. How did they get here? I know there are snakes, Gila monsters and lizards slithering upon these stones and upon this sand. This is a brutal ecosystem.
On the drive to Phoenix last evening, I saw two rainbows. I haven’t seen a rainbow since I was a tyke. I hope that’s a good omen. We passed a road called Bloody Basin Road, then “Horse Thief National Park.” Arizona. It looks like Mars outside.
70 miles from San Diego. Stopped at a gas station in Jacumba. I watched a family feed the prairie dogs or sand squirrels or whatever small, rodent beasts they were. The creatures crept warily to the fence, snatched a French fry and sprinted to the nearest brush of sticks. Some approached me hungrily, sniffed and scampered towards other food-bearing humans when they realized forlornly that I had nothing to offer. I said to Matt, “Maybe we should feed them Billy’s nuts.” We’ve filled the tank twice since Phoenix- that’s over $60 on gas for a five-hour drive. Absurd. Oil is thicker than blood. It is the fuel of our civilization. And it’s running on empty.
Writing in the dark outside the Che Café here in San Diego. Lots of really young kids; that seems to be the age group we attract now. It makes me feel ancient. No one here is anywhere near 28 years old, not even the people working this place. They’re 18, 19, maybe 20. So it goes. We play loud agitated guitar-driven rock music. Some claim the upside of this equation is that these children possess disposable income to purchase our products, which of course enables us to survive while on the road. None of us is independently wealthy and thus our personal bank accounts could never subsidize 40+ days of travel. Maybe that is selling out. Maybe that’s real life.
San Diego is beautiful. We dined at Pokez, me wolfing down in orgiastic bliss a divine vegan and bean chorizo. I felt my body absorb not only the flavor but also the bounty of nutrition wrapped within. We then made our way to the beach. The Pacific, as mesmerizing as always. I stood on the jetty over the ocean, the waves crashing all around me. The sun set, falling into the sea. I felt calm and at peace. It was as if my body had a chance to breathe easy, if only for an hour.
The last time we were here, I trekked to the shore with a gaggle of dudes in the wee hours of the morn. They passed a spliff while I gazed off into the dark ocean, my first time seeing the Pacific. We saw various colors sparking in the waves, blue, red, orange. Someone later explained that this was due to algae. Yet no one believed them when they described this the next day. They relied on me as definitive proof: “He saw it. And he wasn’t high!”
Now it is back to the screamy, noisy routine. Maybe I’m getting too old for it. I crave catharsis. But what about the musical aspect? I don’t know. This is what I do. Some people paint. Some people build houses, others fix cars. I play guitar and jump around. I’ve done it since I was 16. I will probably do it when I am 60 (which shall be a sight to behold).
Everyone’s getting tense in their own ways. It has been two weeks. But man, every time I come out here, I fall more in love with it. I don’t know, I am a Jersey boy at heart, a man of the northeast. This seems like never, never land.