This trip began for me on December 23rd. So, this is day number eight of travel. Eight days is a long time to be moving around.
Or is it?
I wonder if I just burned myself out when I did that whole travel around the USA for a year and visit readers of my blog thing back in 2003-2004. There's a part of me that still hasn't recovered from that trip.
We headed south for Death Valley Junction. I've wanted to go there for years to visit the Amargosa Opera House. I once saw a movie called Amargosa—it was about Martha Becket and her strange desert theater. Ever since then I've dreamed of seeing it in person. And, her movie was the first time I heard the Bing Crosby and Andrews Sisters version of Don't Fence Me In, which I do a cover of on my soon-to-be-released album. (I included this song on my album because the album is a collection of music to leave this world to, and I want that song played at my own funeral.)
It costs $5 per person to take a tour of the opera house, and you pay in the lobby of the attached motor lodge. That is, unless the cleaning lady that gives the tours is busy—which she was. But, if the janitor feels sorry for you and takes you instead then it's free.
The inside was lovely. Every inch of the place was painted with fantastic harlequin murals by Martha Becket. Martha is the spirit of the Amargosa Opera House. She writes and performs all the plays, writes and sings the music, creates the sets, designs costumes, choreographs, dances, and more. And, she's been doing this out in the desert for forty years.
She's a testament to tenacity. When I see what's she's done, I tell myself, Justin, just keep going.
After the opera house I visited a lesser-known yet AMAZING Death Valley Junction landmark, the Glory Urinal. Located in the attached motel, the Glory Urinal was a massive mountain of porcelain, stretching up from the floor to my rib cage. It was over a foot deep, and the cavern inside had its own weather system.
According to my map there was a nearby geological anomaly called Devil's Hole. From what I could see on the map it was seven miles away in a little annexed bit of Death Valley National Monument. But, there wasn't enough detail on the map to get me to it.
So, first I asked the motel receptionist if she knew where it was. She'd never heard of it.
Next I asked the cleaning lady. She'd heard of it, but had no idea where it was or what it was.
So, I asked the janitor. He drove a tired, blue Chevrolet pickup and had a non-ironic mustache and a rural accent. These seemed to be pretty good indicators that he'd know about a nearby landmark, since he seemed like the kind of person that might have gone out to a national park to drink beer and have sex in his youth.
He'd heard of Devil's Hole, but didn't know where it was or anything at all about it.
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? Why is it that NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING AT ALL EVER? As far as I can tell, if you want to ask someone where something is and you want an inaccurate answer or NO ANSWER AT ALL then you must always remember to ask a hotel employee. EVERY HOTEL EMPLOYEE I've asked about ANYTHING on this trip has been an empty-headed IDIOT.
[The clerk at the Extended Stay America in Bakersfield didn't know if her hotel had a pool or not, didn't know how to get the college in the very city she lived and worked in, and BEST OF ALL she thought that the college in Bakersfield was UCLA. I asked the counter woman at the Motel 6 in Mojave if there was anywhere to rent movies in Mojave, and she said definitely not. I walked across the street to the library and rented two movies. Then I walked to the grocery store next to that and there were also movies for rent there. Is it against the law for hotels to hire helpful front desk staff? Or, are intelligent, knowledgeable people just too rare—and therefore too expensive?]
Ok, must breathe. Must not wish Fast-Ating Cancer(TM) on all hotel clerks. Must remember to have unconditional positive regard for all living things. I don't hate jellyfish or onions or seven-year-olds with Down Syndrome just because they can't give me directions to the nearest whatever. So, why should I hate the hotel clerk? This seems like something I should maybe write down and bring with me in my wallet so I can remind myself to stay loving when people are acting like onions, jellyfish, or mentally handicapped seven-year-olds.
I found another map that had information about Devil's Hole, so we made it there out without the help of the helpless hotel clerks. Turns out it's in this strange little displaced square of Death Valley that's about 40 miles east from the rest of the park.
Mini Death Valley Annex is surrounded by a wildlife preserve, so I knew it was going to be extremely boring and stupid. But, I couldn't resist seeing some geological formation with a reference to the devil in it.
Turns out that Devil's Hole is a deep, narrow gash in the Earth's crust—a faultline fissure descending 500 feet downwards into superheated water. It's also home to an entire species that lives nowhere else on the entire planet—the Devil's Hole Pupfish.
You can not eat them, nor do they do tricks, which makes them without any entertainment value for me.
It seemed like the whole area was all about endangered pupfish living in hot water pools.
A park ranger told us about a run-down cemetery just south of Death Valley Junction, and that sounded very cool. I love middle of nowhere cemeteries. I don't care that they scream out I'm in a high school black and white photography class. I like them anyways. Sometimes there's a reason that things become overdone: because they're awesome. (Example: Female breasts. Obvious, cliché, and absolutely wonderful.)
The graveyard wasn't much bigger than my yard, and most of the grave markers were made of wood. It was shabby and unkempt—defeated by the wind and sun, littered with tumbleweeds. The hand-fashioned wooden crosses were falling apart. A stuffed animal was slowly disintegrating next to one grave.
It couldn't have possibly been more beautiful to me.
Everything is so beautiful when framed by the desert.
I want to be framed by the desert, too.
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