[11/13/2016 07:23 pst]

Admin has recently brought up the staggering thought of leaving the site news section of the index off in the future. We will miss being seen up here at the top of each of his entries, but the greater good must be served (not to mention the fact that he holds the pink slip to the entire shitaree). This will be discussed at length during the next staff meeting. We wait with open ears and open minds.

In other news, admin has secured a print subscription to a newspaper from southern California in order to keep up with affairs related to the area discussed below. We do hope that the insight will draw more information about the legendary trip which still stirs both he and us. That time is years passed but still holds wonder like no other period in our history. And it may represent the end of the early history of this site. We will go where pointed, and as long as the archive maintains footing, we shall endeavor to assist in the future.

The Salton Sea and the Heartbreak

 read ( words)

"The trip was the longest continuous period of time we had spent together. Every meal, every cup of coffee, and every smoke break... Together -- not to mention hour after hour in her vehicle. The situation was wonderful, but at the same time it had caused each of us some difficulty due to the lack of time for ourselves. She told me it was ok, but still I worried. I worried for her mental stability, her future, and the pain which brought her to the coast in the first place. On the other hand, she feared for my safety -- being left alone -- and that I may not still be there if and when she returned. We had spent almost the entire prior month exclusively together and within her apartment, and we both felt that the trip would help to strengthen us as individuals and provide neutral territory, if you will. This required an enormous amount of patient conversation, which concluded with equal fear that we may never see each other again if the separation for that week had taken place. That may create the idea that there was excessive tension between us and instability, but the truth is we needed each other badly due to problems we had created for ourselves. The combination of the two of us in the state of mind we shared, coupled with our reckless, drunken and suicidal nature was very dangerous. Neither of us could be trusted alone. Thus, she agreed and we planned for the exploration of the Salton Sea.

Initially the idea was for me to book the resort to assist her in making the trip alone, but there was no way remaining behind would have helped anyone, least of all me. We had each taken leave from work for unrelated reasons, and the need arose for her to get out of town for a while. This seemed a good idea at the outset, but within moments of seeing my welling eyes, she agreed to make the drive together. This was likely in concert with her knowledge that my therapy was not progressing at all. She knew I was extremely unstable and prone to disastrous thought. Despite her need to be alone for days, she knew in her heart that the draw upon me would be too difficult, and the resulting loss would push me outside the limits of living. To this day I appreciate the fact that she recognized my situation and felt enough love toward me to allow me along for the ride. So, to southern California we went and to one of the most desolate and desperate places in the country.

We took off three days later in her car and headed south. It was a cool Monday morning at 3am and the feeling of leaving when others were soon going to be headed to work was wonderful. The car was dark and quiet, and we made the occasional stop for coffee and snacks. Indio is more than five hundred miles from her cave, and such a distance leaves much time for conversation. We spoke at length about everything, and as the car ventured closer to our destination the subject at hand quickly moved to the Salton Sea and surrounding areas. We did not stop at any point throughout the drive to break out the cameras and explore. The focus was the Sea, and our schedule (at least early in the week) dictated that we arrive there quickly to maximize our time. I find it interesting that throughout all of the time I had spent with her gallivanting around SF and other places, the cameras were constantly at the ready. To drive all that way through unfamiliar territory and pass obvious photo locations without a stop is very telling of our determination. The drive was calming to a degree, and the time in the car became a vacation all its own. That was nearly nine days of traveling all over areas south of Palm Springs and Indio and then the route home on the coast. Her car became a haven of sorts for both of us.

early morning drive

Our relationship leading up to the trip was shaky at best. We had periods of difficulty like nothing else in life. The drive provided an isolated forum for discussion and the exotic locales allowed us to remain objective and calm regarding our differences and individual issues. Combined with such unfamiliar scenery, we were both able to expand our viewpoints and identify with the others' needs. This was important due to the confined nature of our early relationship. The drive became therapeutic on many levels, and the timeshare also provided a somewhat isolated haven for us to be ourselves. The resort was just outside Indio near one of the many golf courses, and as such remained off the beaten path. We were on the outer edge of town which suited our situation perfectly. While in the room, we were able to cook and relax on the balcony, and the resort's landscaping and pool area were quite serene. Overall, the location was ideal in that we could be near others if we wished, and hidden when we did not. Naturally, we acted recklessly at times due to our differences and the issues which were a large part of the reason we were so far from home. Seven nights and eight days at the timeshare, coupled with the two of us spending hour after hour in the car was not ideal considering some of the troubles were related to our time cooped up in her apartment, but we were able to make the best of the situation as it unfolded.

Upon reaching the timeshare in Indio, we were able to sprawl out and relax. Living life through the lenses became an extension of this feeling and several days behind the cameras assisted us in being separate yet remaining somehow together. From time to time we wandered far from each other partly due to the feeling of being 'inside' the cameras -- sometimes for more than an hour -- so the eventual physical closeness once again brought some comfort to each of us, thus allowing the exploration to progress without issue. In fact, when our eyes met after becoming intimate with the landscape for long periods, there was an understanding that we needed to be together. That was an extremely peaceful and deeply satisfying feeling. During our second visit to Bombay Beach, for example, I lost sight of her for quite a long while. There are levees and some abandoned structures near the beach which serve to create a divide between the town and the water. We spent so much time in those areas that reaching back to each other required half an hour or more. We were into the area and the function of capturing, all the way. Breaking out of that mindset takes effort, and it happened at times -- bringing us back into each other's arms for a short bit. The most wonderful look in her eyes, the warmth of knowing she needed me, and the satisfaction born of our mutually difficult situations instilled the knowledge that we loved each other, and that fact burned deeply while holding hands or meeting eyes. That had been the most wonderful of feelings. Nothing else would compare to knowing that she desired my company as much as I desired hers. During those moments, my life was defined and in order. All else faded away.


The look of each area around the Sea was unique, although they did share some similarities. There was an overpowering feeling of loss and abandonment within those small towns. Poverty was not the first term to come to mind, however, and the people still living there seemed content. The picture was more as an area which had been left behind in the near and far past. The buildings and trailers left there to the weather and salt were laden with graffiti and most windows were either missing or broken. We peered inside many structures and photographed what we could. Some were quite colorful in their history while others were simply wrecked. We discovered some of the writings both inside and outside a few of the damaged buildings, and they conveyed the feeling that 'hope had left', while others referred to the 'end of the world', among other fatalistic views due to the nature of the area. Young people apparently did not hesitate to voice their opinions wherever they felt there was space. Reason must have been available in abundance.

Everything near the Sea itself was coated in salt. In some places the salt was so thick that it had become somewhat petrified. Even walking upon those surfaces did not disturb the crust. The beaches were covered from end to end with various discarded items -- tires, fencing, old shoes and sandals, broken glass, and a multitude of dead tilapia (see this essay). Forgotten dredging machinery from before the military used the Sea for aircraft touch-and-goes could also be found, especially in Bombay Beach which was south of the SRA. Yes, a luxury club on the shores of the Salton. Unbelievable. Decades ago, efforts were made to beautify and upgrade the east shore of the Sea and bring it back to the glory days when movie stars and celebrities used the area as a vacation haven. This effort is long dead and the remnants are all over the beaches. The entire situation is quite sad and some residents still recall the past with fondness.

We visited the four largest communities on three sides of the Sea, along with the south shore's wildlife refuge. From a certain perspective, the Salton Sea is very beautiful, but one must look through jaded eyes. The area is not for every traveler, to be sure. The shores smell of dead fish and stale water, and that fact alone is enough to drive anyone away quickly. The tilapia are pervasive, and the resulting smell is enough to drive any casual tourist away and into more pleasant surroundings. Our visit was in mid-December while the air was cool and that made all the difference. Of course the scent and sadness were impossible to ignore, however we knew of this upon leaving home. The importance of seeing the Sea pushed any discomfort aside and allowed us to focus our lenses on history. And there was no end to it -- in any direction was something of note, and we found every step to be fascinating. From sinking homes to discarded outhouses to vast, sprawling beds of bleached sea shells which made up the beaches, everything went into the cameras at high speed. Not that the numbers would help, but in six days we exhausted some ten-thousand exposures with two cameras. The combination of the remoteness and beauty forced us to make use of every photo opportunity. And we did this in excess.

My memories of that place and all of the decay apparent are exhausting. Even the post-processing of so many images became an exercise in sadness and despair. There were abandoned trailers still in their broken and crooked garages and carports, cars left to rust in front of homes which became havens for wildlife and targets for reckless damage, and the look of hopelessness everywhere. The images cannot begin to capture such devastation. Within such a surreal atmosphere, we found it difficult to pick a direction, even from the very beginning. She had watched a documentary on the Sea weeks earlier and that was the catalyst for the entire trip. The main focus of that film was Bombay Beach, the largest community on the east shore. This became our starting point and from there we ended up circling the entire body of water over the next several days. Upon arriving at each stop we decided to simply park and begin wandering the streets and always ended up on the shore. Each area held its own fascinating bits of scenery and history. We spoke with the caretakers of a museum at the yacht club and noticed that they had many brochures -- both from the past and present -- available for tourists and journalists (in fact, they thought we were journalists just as the cashier in the small market in Bombay) which we snapped up for reasons of learning all we could. Eventually it was decided we would travel all the way around the Sea and pick a few choice stops on the way. We ended up at the three major towns plus Niland, which was just southeast of the Sea. From there we discovered a wildlife refuge, Salvation Mountain, and Slab City. Coming back up the west shore was Salton City and Salton Sea Beach, the last of which had billboards advertising very inexpensive plots of land to build a 'dream' home. Yes, the signs were very old, but still standing. Nothing changes in those areas, and if it does, the change takes place over an extremely long period of time. Very interesting, to say the least.

Day one brought us to the timeshare for check-in, and after dropping some of our things in the room we she was anxious to get to the Sea. We had some daylight left, so we drove south to the nearest town on the west shore. It was a short distance from the modern and picturesque Indio, and as soon as we turned off 86 the contrast was stark. Desert Shores, years ago, was to be a resort town for people to relax and enjoy the water and weather. In 2010, however, it was all but dead. Few residents remained despite so many homes and businesses still standing. The pungent air took over our senses of smell and sight, and we made our way -- somewhat uncomfortably -- to the levee against the shore. From the very beginning, I was saddened to see all of the fish and other wildlife dead on the beach. We spoke to a resident briefly and walked along the water to take in what we could not believe was so close to luxury and light. The Sea appeared as calm as one could imagine and the mountains visible on the opposite shore were hazy, distorted, and full of deep browns. In between us and the other side were multitudes of seagulls perusing the water. Here and there were salt-covered pilings and the remains of fencing jutting out of the Sea, their reflections clear and sharp due to the calmness. The beach was harsh, with the scent of the fish unrelenting. All around us the air was still and very quiet, save for the occasional aircraft flying over at great altitude. The sky in all its glory was reflected everywhere along with wisps of clouds and contrails, and the water appeared many different colors due to the conditions. Up close, the bottom of the Sea was visible and showed us more fish in various stages of decay. The entire picture before us was staggering and unreal.

After a short period of my becoming more familiar with the camera and shooting as much as possible in the waning light, we returned to the city.


Day two was full... We began in Bombay Beach in front of 7am, and made several stops all the way around the Sea. Bombay was unbelievable, and upon arriving we immediately parked and ventured to the shore. That area looked like some other forgotten planet, with discarded items strewn across the beach and abandoned buildings everywhere. Our cameras did not stop for more than a few seconds at a time. We availed ourselves of the opportunity to capture as much as possible. This was the first long outing in which we drifted apart in order to follow wherever our eyes led. From across the salt I could see her, focusing and shooting at the ground, buildings, details, and the odd bits which she turned into art. The early morning haze and dim lighting created a silhouette of her and the camera bag riding upon her back. I felt the need to run to her several times but kept my distance to allow her to explore uninterrupted. This proceeded to bring both joy and trepidation to my long walks. Initially the troubling thoughts of us held me back from the relaxation necessary for objectivity. After a while, however, I found the ability to seek out my own compositions and eventually bring the morning into my lens.

On the map, Bombay Beach is a strict square grid of streets, and many of the small homes which were still occupied appeared well cared for. In between these were tired, broken and neglected structures, some of which barely managed to resemble houses. All had tremendous character despite their condition. Once heading from the shore and into town, we again separated for a period and looked around in wonder, cameras never quieting. After a time in the small community, we headed into the local market for something to drink. The store was -- like many other businesses still in operation -- surreal. The cashier was pleasant and fairly surprised to see us walk in. Apparently, we did not resemble residents in any way and she knew immediately that we were from a far off place. We refrained from engaging her in conversation for fear of creating any discomfort, however. We simply completed our transaction and left, peacefully. From there we decided to leave Bombay and drive south and search for something else. Walking back to the car was peaceful and we joined hands for a bit. The feeling was warm and wonderful, albeit the underlying emotion remained unstable, to say the least.

Two stops on the west side of Highway 111 brought us into even more odd and abandoned structures. We shot, again, for a while at each and then drove further south straight through Niland. There was pleasant conversation about all that we had seen, and still excitement over what lay ahead. After cruising through that small town we stopped at the wildlife refuge along the south shore. Seeing some green for a while was nice, and the conversation between us again was pleasant. Despite this, the underlying difficulty was flowing within me. I knew she was dealing with it as well, and the thought of creating discomfort within her was driving me into a bit of paranoia over what may take place upon reaching home some days later. Still, I maintained composure and we looked around the shoreline. Our lenses retained their focus, as they had during each stop. My focus, however was split in two, literally, and avoiding bringing emotional issues up to her while in those places was not easy. We again took to the highway and soon met up with 86 on the west shore. North to two more communities and endless devastating visions -- the most devastating of which was within my head. Fuck.

We stopped for lunch at the Marina in Salton City near the beach, and upon first glance the place looked a bit tired and rough around the edges. Despite this, we walked in and took a seat at the bar. To our astonishment, the restaurant was in full swing and the staff pleasant. This seemed to be the sole establishment within a town which had been deprived of tourism for years. The look was very dated yet we felt comfortable remaining for a light meal and a couple of beers. We sat and talked, and after so much driving the opportunity to gaze was once again available. She sat next to me admiring the decor and marveling at the fact that such a place remained alive after years of abuse and neglect. The town was amazing to see after so many aspects of it had gone by the wayside, and to sit in one of the sole remaining businesses was unreal. We loved it and strove to absorb as much history as possible. Still, the feeling conveyed by the staff was one of sadness and loss. Once finished with our lunch, the beach awaited and was directly behind the building, so we vacated with cameras in tow.

Salton City's beach still held the gazebos and other recreational symbols of its long past. The picnic tables were weathered and neglected, just as many other aspects of the Sea. Behind the bar's back door there were bocce courses and horseshoe pits which were still in use. Beyond these, the shell-laden beach was covered with remnants of parties and gatherings, most of which showed their age in spades. We photographed as much as possible, and all the while the sun was moving ever closer to setting behind the palm farms and creating a hazy glow across the Sea. Even on a clear Winter day the air was heavy and thick with moisture and the combination provided an off-worldly feeling. Blues, oranges, and browns dictated the color scheme, no matter the foreground details. I sat at one of the weathered tables and gazed at her off in the distance. Troubling thoughts were intermixed with bits of desire and appreciation for all that she was. The sprawling, open feeling of that shore allowed me to take in everything... From the driftwood and fallen telephone poles to the discarded whiskey bottles and litter. And then in the distance, a beauty like no other. I longed to be inside her heart and feel what she was feeling. Soon after, and with the sun at a threatening angle, we exited Salton City and rolled toward Indio once again. As of this moment, years later, I cannot overstate the beauty of seagulls drifting across the low sky and providing contrast to the alien landscape we viewed. The memory of sitting among the history of such a devastating and enigmatic place is still there, along with the knot which remains, perpetually cemented within my midsection. Fuck.


The only outing during that long trip which was outside the shore of the Sea found us on the third day wandering into Joshua Tree National Park. We eased into the south gate off Interstate 10 and proceeded up to White Tank campground to capture some images. Along the way we stopped and viewed the Cholla fields and Ocotillo groves, and the infamous Fried Liver Wash. It was there that we enjoyed a bit of lightheartedness which caught me off guard completely. I wished to photograph the identifying sign (in lovely brown and white, as all signs appear in National Parks), and she proceeded to reenter the car and take off quickly. I was initially taken by surprise at her actions, and when I saw her big, beautiful eyes squinting in their devilish manner, I realized that her mood was far above what I had sensed prior to leaving for the park. For a short time the hope for us flowed through my heart and I felt as if we would survive this trip and maintain our romance. The day was peaceful, except for the tremendous instability within my head and heart. The park is gorgeous, from end to end, and provided an enormous contrast to the Salton Sea and small communities therein. We spent part of the day photographing the landscape in all of its glory, and again wandered far apart. There was no possibility of sighting her from wherever we headed due to the many rock formations and varying elevations of the park. Still, no matter the beautiful sights nor my desire to embed myself within and retain them, thoughts of her took over my mind.

I experimented with some of the plants and attempted to use extremely narrow depth of field for creating a point of focus and disparity of color which would push the viewer into tiny places, but still... My heart was with her. The distraction of the sights was not enough to jar myself out of the deep need to be close to her. I did manage to work alone for a period, but upon seeing her from a distance all of my technical focus faded and blurred into thoughts of her eyes. The rocks and plants provided plenty of material subjects to explore, and for hours we did just that. This was our third day spent at the resort in Indio and it represented a short break from the down and saddened nature of the communities and landscape around the Salton Sea. The idea of spending time within such a beautiful park felt like a lift above the eroding landscape and dying fish which became prevalent in our travels. Of course, the day still remained as a drop within me due to the turmoil. We stayed at White Tank until the afternoon light left our cameras, and then meandered back west to the resort.

That evening she wished to cook so we ventured to a market for a few Italian staples. Upon returning, dinner was quiet, and we again sat quietly and separately into the night. All the while I flip-flopped between the thought that I was intruding into a trip she had planned to take alone, and the knowledge that she was enjoying spending time with me, both out in the field and at the timeshare. I could not discuss the subject with her because I had no wish to pry into whatever she may have been feeling. Still, I longed to know... Anything. Aside from her eyes while out shooting, I had little evidence of what may take place upon reaching home. Throughout the first few days, however, those eyes expressed love.


On the fourth day we slept longer, and agreed to a break from traveling away from the city. Instead, we left the resort in search of a comfortable bar or restaurant (or both) to sit and remain off our feet for a while. We found a dim and dramatic-looking bar not far from Interstate 10 and sunk in for part of the early afternoon. The venue had lots of patio seating, served food, and we found ourselves two of very few patrons. The conversation began slowly, but once the Irish coffees began to enter our veins we switched gears and discussed how our connection had resembled the crumbling landscape through which we trudged during the previous three days. I could see in her eyes that the feelings I was unable to shake free were also occupying her thoughts while we photographed. She stated that the sprawling shores were a godsend in that they enabled us to become individuals and seek out what each of us found interesting. She also confirmed that when we wandered back toward each other her heart soared similar to mine. All of this had begun to tire her -- the back-and-forth of intimacy and disparity -- and at times she had wished to leave and go home. Of course, that thought sent me spiraling into depression yet again, and I had voiced this to her. We both knew that the two of us together could be toxic at times, yet tender and loving during others. There simply was no stable center. I had sought the in-between for months, however we continued to demonstrate that it did not exist. Such a realization during the long trip was devastating to me, although I still felt hope due to my needy and selfish nature. Another aspect which did not help either of us was the guilt we shared over events which took place prior to the trip, including my reasoning for moving into her apartment. Everything which was the beginning of our relationship seemed to be lying there... Splayed out on the sun-bleached fields of shells and dead fish. All was in the open and dying, slowly. Or dead. I knew not which. I felt that from the start, but pushed it away like a child's nightmare.

We stayed on the patio of that bar for what seemed an eternity. As the afternoon wore on, others began to seat around us and there we were... In the center... Loaded, emotional, and reckless once again. That seemed to be our middle ground: drunk and full of discussion and depression, yet merged with moments of caressing and flirting. We were in a storm cycle of sorts, and we knew it. Whenever we were in a similar situation in SF or other places, I somehow never worried over how we may have appeared to others around us. We were in a bubble no matter the location, and could do as we wished while inside. That was our world, and I was quite certain it appeared very odd from a distance. We stayed longer, smoked more, drank more, and had a bit to eat before returning to the resort. That day away was nearly as difficult as walking the shores of the Sea.

The night brought us to an understanding (at least temporarily), and we each sat alone to read and relax. Few words were spoken due to the knowledge that each needed the silence. The evening was long, cool, and peaceful. The time was available to empty the camera into my laptop and prepare for another day of filling it with sadness. I also steeled myself for another day of longing. She was wonderful, and becoming everything to me. The trip could not end well due to my being as unhealthy and emotionally out of balance as could be imagined.

real estate sign

Five days into the trip, and at the point when I believe we felt the furthest apart, she drove us to Salvation Mountain, and just beyond that colorful landmark, Slab City (within which resided droves of people who had already 'escaped' the confines of a society with which they disagreed). The mountain was just that... A huge religious landmark built almost solely by one man who felt an overwhelming need to display his belief and spread his love for all to see. We spoke with him at length and wondered what could drive a person to go to such an effort. The mountain became a tourist attraction of sorts and visitors dropped donations to support his continued work. This was one of the areas where we wandered far from each other. Sadness, and in the midst of so much love. The whole of the mountain, the slabs, and the water tanks between them was a vast, desolate area within which we hardly spoke. The cameras did all of the talking and we simply went with it... We dove in. So far from home, the idea of leaving a mark there for the future was not something which interested us, however we wished to bring as much with us as humanly possible. Who the fuck knew when we would ever be within something so other-worldly and wonderful. Shutters flying, steps quietly taken so as to leave that place undisturbed, and us... Nearly silent and drifting among the sand. Again, it was a metaphor somehow -- floating around a forsaken area in the wind, and us floating between being together and falling apart. Heartbreaking, all of it, and yet the photos show only a fraction.

We moved from the Mountain and across the sand to remnants of the military's presence from years passed. The gap between the Mountain, Slab City and East Jesus was a desolate area populated by abandoned concrete structures and haphazard cholla. Upon reaching the halfway point, our cameras screamed for the graffiti upon giant water tanks. We circled both of them, and learned that there was not one square inch of empty space to be found. Artists left their stories on the entire perimeter of each, and the resulting feelings were of both surprise and fear. Statements of war, despair, murder, economic devastation, and uncontrolled reproduction were spelled out in graphic form which could not be ignored. Someone went to great lengths to get their point across and we captured all of it. Intertwined with all of the political statements and depictions of species being raped for advantage, there were small hearts, pleasant thoughts, and the random uplifting words known to bumper stickers everywhere. The radical nature of such broad and all-encompassing art was staggering, to say the least. We captured all of it, no matter the implications or distasteful manner in which it had been conveyed. Art is art, and this was an unbelievable example of just how far some went to make their point. The tanks were fantastic.

Unfortunately, that word is also used to describe something which is beyond understanding. That was the two of us. Another word? Disjointed.

the cylinder

After leaving the emotional nature of the Mountain and Slabs, we made a brief stop halfway back to the tiny town of Niland. There was an abandoned guard shack next to the roadway which had been covered in playful banter. Across the road was a Starbucks coffee traveler left to decay in the sand. We each shot around a bit before reentering the car. Just a little way further toward Niland and I asked to stop again near an uncontrolled railroad crossing. For the next forty minutes or so, I nestled myself near the rails due to their active and polished nature, and shot the trains traveling north and south. That section of railway was very busy most days due to the movement of materials to and from destinations further south. I saw mostly covered hoppers and boxcars being pulled by no less than three locomotives at a time. The interval for trains passing was roughly ten minutes which gave me lots of opportunities for shooting my favorite mode of freight transportation. The light of the day was waning, so my shutter quieted after a short period. I did not realize at the time, but this represented the first occasion during the trip which I had felt at ease. Railroads had always held a certain fascination and to be so close to trains passing over and over was very enjoyable. Upon leaving my vantage point near the rails, I again found her, and with a smile on her face. Once again my heart leaped in her direction and hope returned. She was warm and welcoming, and very happy that I shot around the railroads. Before reentering the car, we set the cameras aside and embraced for a long moment. The world melted away like snow in the sun, and the bubble became everything.

We drove back up the east shore and into town in search of alcohol and some time away from the car. She had the idea of cooking at the resort so we shopped and did just that. Afterward, the stress of our distorted relationship drove us into the sundry shop after which we exited with whiskey. The balcony off our living room was large and quite comfortable, so we drank and sat and talked. Just as the mood began to relax and when we seemed to be making headway toward an understanding, we changed clothes and strolled down to the spa. Yes, a head full of booze and hot water can be dangerous, yet nothing was as bad as the two of us -- pretty well drunk -- and discussing the history of the sexes and their respective roles during the formation of society. Eventually this led to yet another physical split and my having a disagreement with the gate and surrounding foliage. By the time I regained my stance and composure (tipsy as it was), she returned to learn why I had remained behind. Upon seeing me bruised and broken, she helped me back to the upstairs perch and we talked some more. That was another example of our reckless and hazardous nature together... Alcohol and our combined brainpower. We sat there, calmly, and tried to work through the incident which had happened all too often at home, but to no avail. The fact that we were five hundred miles from her apartment meant neither of us could simply leave, though, despite any issues. We were stuck there, for all it could have been worth. Ugh.

weather the salt

The morning we checked out, the idea was to drive all the way home in one shot. Naturally, the weather did not cooperate. Upon exiting Indio, the rain began to fall lightly. I love the rain so it did not bother me at all, however she had always felt uncomfortable driving while the roads were wet, so the trip back went more slowly than heading to the Sea. In fact, she decided to make a beeline straight to the coast and we ended up extending the week by spending one more night out of town.

We made our way through to Santa Monica and when turning north on the coast highway the rain became heavier. At one point we left the highway to refuel, and the surface streets were partially flooded. We took the opportunity to smoke under the eave of the gas station and I tried to calm her a bit before driving again. Another stop on the coast at an abandoned missile base and she seemed to be feeling better. Once again, my desire was to provide her with whatever she needed, both emotionally and logistically. There was still that gap of a feeling, though, as if we could be right next to each other yet somehow miles apart. Somehow, indeed... I knew why and suspect she did as well. Further up the coast and we made our way to Solvang for a rest. I noticed that when we slid into a cozy bar she opted to have espresso rather than alcohol, as was our prior and endless drink of choice. No matter, I felt, as we could still enjoy the day regardless of the mood created by her discomfort over the rain and my need to be physically close. We strolled along the historic district streets and shopped a bit before leaving to head further north. During this time we did hold hands in a caressing manner which seemed to relax us both and was more than enough to temporarily put my mind and heart at ease. The feeling of that type of contact was out of this world, especially given our sordid history and the haphazard nature of our time around the Sea. It seemed as if much of the trip had provided each of us with the type of break we needed after being holed up for so long, and the separation we enjoyed while walking for miles on end throughout the days. Of course, there sat the lump deep inside which I could not deny. During that time, I literally would have given the remainder of my life to know what she felt, beyond the simple surface. My world was centered around her, and that is as gross an understatement as stating that the universe is diminutive. Yes, I was skewed and distorted beyond belief, but such a situation is not born of a balanced relationship -- it comes from codependence, plain and simple. We were similar. The need to be with her was a real, tangible thing, and one which took over my existence. She was everything to me, and that can never be good between two people.

After a short visit to picturesque Solvang, once again we hit the road toward home. The ride was calming, and from time to time we again joined hands which proceeded to send me into heartfelt orbit. I stared at her hand in mine and the warmth was undeniable. There were periods during that segment of the trip when I began to wish we could spin around and head back to the Sea of sadness. I needed it as I needed her, and to miss that place became painful. [Several essays have been written regarding my feelings toward the Sea -- all of which convey a feeling of extreme loss upon departing each area. The fish, salt, palms, and thick air all created a haunted house of pain within me, and nothing of what I have written can nearly do the Sea justice. That place is steeped in history, and for some reason I connected with it on a deep level and feel as if I belong there.]

She wished to visit an old family home south of Morro Bay, and then made an abrupt command decision to spend the night in that city. I had no choice as she was the sole driver, and the idea of extending the trip even further actually helped me to feel that our relationship could eventually survive. I have never been an emotionally mature person so the idea was far-fetched to say the least. Still, she seemed to be enjoying herself and our being together, so any thought of happiness developed in my head as hope for us. Simply seeing her smile brought more excitement and joy out of me than anything else I could have imagined. Her happiness meant the world to me, and in the midst of my selfish and needy desire to be with her, that speaks volumes. I was nearly as out of balance as a person can be, so my value was entirely based upon our relationship. My life was 'us' or nothing. Morro Bay helped by allowing us to remain close for another night, and unfortunately also allowed us to have dinner and drinks once again. This was not good, and in fact ended badly due to our reckless nature combined with a mistake I had made weeks earlier. When I learned of her desire to travel to the Salton Sea, I booked her into the timeshare jointly owned by me and my ex. Originally I did this solely for her, but when we decided to go on the trip together I overlooked placing the reservation in my name, and the resulting damage comes next.

the bar

We checked in to a small motel for the night, and then ventured to find a nice restaurant/bar for dinner. The perfect place was found after some walking, and even the bartender was our type... Friendly, open, and worldly. Dinner was wonderful, and afterward -- with half a snootful -- she wanted to find an old bar from years passed. We searched around with the Internet as guide but never found the place. Instead we strolled into the Fuel Dock Saloon which resembled a gas station. There was no one inside save for the bartender and she welcomed us wonderfully. Immediately I sensed that she was just our type... Gorgeous, discreet, and very playful. The situation seemed that she was as happy to see us roll in as we were to be there. This was a Sunday night and very likely a slow time for the place. We bantered for a few, ordered two Guinness, two Jamesons, and requested pool cues for our hands. We laughed, shot many games, and proceeded to become a bit looser than we should have given the emotional nature of the trip. We shared many close moments during all of those games, and all the while her eyes spoke to me in volumes. I could see that she was enjoying the situation at that saloon and the two of us being in a place we loved and felt comfortable. She expressed love which filled the room and my heart. On the way back to the motel I received a message from the ex stating that she hoped my companion 'enjoyed' her stay at our resort, because she had received email from the timeshare with a survey. Oy. The nature of my ex's message was nowhere near courteous, and when I told the woman next to me... Well, for all intents and purposes that was the end of the evening. I will not go into detail about one aspect of her feelings toward our relationship, but suffice to say the end was near. She was so upset that it took the night and more than a hundred miles of roadway into the next morning before we spoke more than a word. Naturally, I was in a hole myself, as my mistake had carried into her head. For this one isolated incident, she was not to blame at all. I ruined many things before we left for the Sea, and at this point one more fucked up situation became a hash mark on my neck. Sitting here now almost six years later and I can still see the emotional knife as it entered her heart. That was something I would not soon be able to think clearly about nor would it allow me to cease any hatred of myself. It was all bad. Just very bad.

Once the car arrived in Capitola, we walked in silence yet again. That would not be the last time, either. We stopped and sat in a little hole in the wall of a taqueria and spoke of the past... Her past living near that city. There was joking and laughter, staring and longing, beer and tacos. Lunch became comfortable for us and allowed for some closure to the past several days away. The afternoon was in stark contrast to the previous few hours of driving, and for whatever reason it seemed that things would be ok between us. For the first time since the prior evening I felt as if she was healing at last and the issues raised by the email were perhaps not as damaging as I had feared. The feeling was wonderful and once again my heart swelled for her as Morro faded. Inside me, however, the closeness to home brought on fear of what may take place in the near future. Also in there were thoughts of how my actions had brought her discomfort in the extreme and how badly I wanted to turn back the clock. There was no need to share the message with her, and had I kept it to myself her feelings would have been spared. That thought was damaging to say the least. Even though I knew in my heart that we were destined to be apart, the thought of being the cause just pushed me into a hole. The fact that we were so much closer to home meant that I did not want the trip to end because we would quickly return to daily life and that represented the reality of splitting up. Hotels, distance and her car added up to time in which we were together out of necessity, and home was where my car and other things sat and waited... They represented her ability to ask me to leave if she wished such. That was a terrible feeling and still it is in there... Somewhere. I can sit at this editor and the knife is there, still deep in my heart, and by my own hand.

in wine, truth

Upon finally reaching home, we unloaded the car and proceeded upstairs. From that point forward, the turmoil within me expanded like rice in water. It was then that I decided to attempt to brace myself for the end expected and simply try avoiding guns, knives, and drugs. I wish that was meant as a joke.

Throughout the days around the Sea and outlying areas we wandered the landscape in search of representative images of life as it once was, and as it stood during our visit. We walked endlessly on the shores and inland spaces seeking out sights which would stir the psyche and bring meaning to any description of such a beautiful yet haunting place. The idea of conveying words through the lenses quickly became a focus of our time there. Within such a vein, the connection between us began to resemble the eroding landscape through which we plodded. There were symbols along the way that served to show us who we had become -- as well as where we may end -- should the feelings we shared continue unimpeded. The danger was represented every step of the way, yet we moved along through it with nary a thought for the future. Though the desire to be near each other remained, we found that following our need to get that dying place into the lenses was far more important. Symbols, reasons, hazy sunshine, and the pungent scent of the Sea all worked together to provide a backdrop to our forced sense of deep emotion and loss which began to relate to the landscape. Walking among such devastation and knowing our relationship would eventually be completely doomed was a crushing experience. The gamut of emotions flowed from one moment to the next.

The experience of that week spent on the road and in far away places is one of the hardest parts of life I have ever attempted to describe. In fact, it represented the most arduous trip I have ever taken -- but at the same time, the most rewarding. All of this text and many images later, and the description is still nowhere near enough. She and I went through highs and lows during that time away, and from this writing one may glean that they evened out in the end. This may be true, but the daggers I placed into myself both before and after the adventure say different. This is years ago and the feelings are still there -- heartache, despair, longing, bliss, intimacy, frustration, pain, and joy. The landscape was appropriate considering the storm which was furiously stirring within and between us.

Perhaps one day I will find better direction and words, and the ability to do the trip justice.

To be continued."