Anyone who knows me knows I have a strange love for the high desert. I say strange only because many people may not see why something so hot and “barren” can be so beloved. To them I say they either haven’t spent the right kind of time there, or they’re probably already at peace with themselves.
Early in the romantical phase of our relationship, mjp would go on and on about a desert house where he’d spent a lot of time with his ex. He called it the “desert shack,” located in Joshua Tree, CA–a little cabin on 10 acres of land that sat smack on top, butt up against the National Park. Even though they’d been broken up for four years, he was still good friends with his ex, and he’d use the house any chance he could zip out of town. It’s only a two hour drive from Los Angeles. He’d tell me about the place as if it were some mansion in the sky and he couldn’t wait to show it to me. I remember thinking that the longer I could put that off, the better. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. It didn’t sound so appealing to me. Why? Why would I want to spend a couple days in a shack in the high desert? I’m scared of snakes and tarantellas, I’m not a rock climber, and I’m allergic to bees. Besides, I thought, it’s too hot and everything out there is dead.
This wasn’t always my impression of the desert in general. I just had different ideas about how staying in a cabin there, especially in the high desert where the weather was more extreme. I wondered how it would compare to my past experiences during my various trips I’d made to Arizona. I thought of the California high desert in terms of Death Valley, where there seemed to be nothing but a beating sun. Arizona desert seemed to contrast that with greenery, Saguaro cacti, and giant red rock formations. But I never thought of camping there or rough it in a cabin adjacent to its actual wilderness. I’d only stayed in people’s houses, motels, and I did stay in an RV a few times.
My first trip to Arizona was to Tuscon when I was a kid. My family visited what I seem to remember being my dad’s sister, but I can’t be sure. It’s not that I was too young to remember the trip, it’s that I hardly met anyone from my dad’s family except for his eldest sister whom I lived with for a year in Pennsylvania. Otherwise, his family was a bit of a mysterious oversight. Tuscon was hot as fuck, but I remember it being a really nice trip. I really loved my aunt, or cousin, or my dad’s almost sister, or whomever she was, her family, and the others that were there, but most of all I liked the scenery from the car ride there and back.
Likewise, my band used to play in Arizona all the time, mostly at Arizona State University. We’d usually rent a 16 passenger van, or an RV (in the latter years), and then stay in a motel. Either all six of us (five band members and a roadie) stayed in one room, or we’d get one for the boys and one for the girls if we had more money. We’ve slept in the van too, but never in Arizona; I think we would have died. The temps would hit 115 at times. If nothing else, the motel room was needed just to bring our equipment indoors so it wouldn’t melt. I loved that drive too. That desert landscape always brought me peace, especially if we were all fighting, which was often between us fooling around and cracking jokes. I’d escape out the window and watch invisible buffalo go by.
Back to mjp finally taking me to the desert house, it came very unexpected and I wasn’t prepared. If I knew we’d be going there, like if I had to pack for a trip there, I would’ve procrastinated as much as possible, especially because it was in August. We’d been heading back from Vegas when mjp’s stepfather passed away. We took a “short cut” back to LA because he wanted to show me the desert shack and I was trapped. I had to go.
Since we got there at night, it was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything in front of my face and had to wait until morning. I only remember the lamp inside the house attracted about a billion moths. I knew it would be an uncomfortable night.
I woke up early when the sun was popping up and stood outside in front of the house. It had a wraparound deck and I took a couple steps down onto the sandy dirt to look at what I could see: giant boulders pilled hundreds of feet high into the sky all around me into the distance, nothing else. Nearby were Mesquite, Chaparral, Yucca plants, Joshua Trees, and other little cacti plants spread in what seems to be even bits all over the ground. The silence was deafening and I heard a high-pitched frequency in my ears–the sounds of the city still reeling my head. Outside of my head, I could hear only a few distinct birds, quail I think, and my feet crunching as I walked, compressing tiny pebbles into the bottoms of my rubber shoes. And all I felt was calm.
Normally, all I feel is anxiety. Really. That’s my default emotion it seems. I’ve battled with it my whole life. If not anxiety, it’s been depression or anger. Work is the only thing that fixes anything because I pretty much hate TV for more than an hour. It takes a lot to distract me…
Okay, so I’d say this is part one of something more. I have to have to have to get busy on the Metro commission before I blow it. I’m starting to worry myself. Plus, this post has taken me days to write. I’ve been busy with lots of other stuff that I’ll speak about soon.
By the way, here’s that drawing commission I recently did: