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DESERT OLDS Part 6 L. A, CA , Sedona, AZ, Las Vegas, NV PDF Print E-mail
Written by Magnus King
Monday, 02 July 2012 20:52

DESERT OLDS Part 6 L. A,  CA , Sedona, AZ, Las Vegas, NV

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Writing and photography copyright Double Dragon One Owner Collector Car Ltd. Brochure image copyright GM.

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THE CAR

Nantucket Blue 1967 Cutlass Town Sedan built Dec 20, 1966, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. 330-2bbl-250 HP, two speed auto, 2.78:1 axle. To read a history of the Cutlass and check out its MPG look in the GAS LOGS subsection of the TRAVEL STORIES drop down menu. Below is page 28 from the 1967 Oldsmobile dealership brochure.

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THE TRIP

Jocelyn and Astrid were in our room at the Phoenix Hotel in San Fran figuring strategy for the jewelry trade show the next day down in L.A. Jack sipped a vodka cooler while I swam in the pool. At sunset the three of them set out for L.A,

"I'll see you there." I promised.

I cruised back over the bridge to Leslie's house in Oakland. I informed Martin,

"Well that ticket is finally cancelled, so we can leave town anytime you want to."

Martin's anxiety to get away from the debris of his life with Leslie was palpable,

"As much as I hate L.A., the Most Annoying City On Earth, I'd rather be anywhere than here right now."

I called Laura who had just gotten back into town from the wedding an hour earlier. She knew all along that we might be leaving at the drop at the hat, but when the time came she was sad.

"I had plans for us tomorrow... isn't it possible to stay a few more days? Even just for tomorrow? I have room to put you up here at my place if accommodations are the issue."

I was tempted to try and extend our stay, but one look at Martin brooding in the armchair terminated that idea. He wanted out and was at his breaking point with me overstaying our welcome in places. Besides which, Joce and crew were expecting us in L.A. I promised to catch up with Laura whenever I came back through town. We later found out that Selena had called Leslie's house a few days later. I'll never know what that conversation would have been about.

I called my friend Maria long distance for directions to her place in L.A. It had been about a year since I last saw Marie but our rapport seems eternal. Right from our first meeting a few years earlier back in Vancouver Maria and I clicked.

Martin and I were standing at an intersection in downtown Vancouver when this stunningly cute little thing walked up. I asked her out on a date without hesitation, ignoring Martin's suspicion that she was underage. Maria is so teensy tiny she appears younger than her 18 years. If you listen to her talk, she seems older than she looks. Her old soul mature aura was acquired travelling the country with her restless roamer father. By age 13 she was in charge of domestic issues and money matters, grounding their constantly in flux life as best she could. Her detachment reigns supreme regardless of any crisis swirling around her. After a year in Vancouver she missed the nice weather in L.A. Now she was conveniently located in L.A. in time for us to visit.

Packing took five minutes. Leslie lent me a hot plate stove that had a plug in we could use at rest stops and brightly wished us luck. Martin muttered, mumbled and moodily edged away to the car.

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Interstate 580 East heading towards the I-5 carves through rolling hills with a warm yellow sandy color, deepening in the setting sun. Fields filled with white electricity generating windmills passed by. The sun set on flatlands around reservoirs and viaducts. Maria's precise instructions deposited us into Highway 101. At 1:30 AM Maria's rental house pulled into view in Sherman Oaks, a suburb of Los Angeles. Maria and her roommate Joanne were asleep. Joanne blearily welcomed us. Maria exudes a calm, controlled energy. She methodically got the car unpacked and things dealt with.

Early the next morning, Maria summarized the layout of Sherman Oaks in relation to L.A. then quickly dressed in a smart business suit. She is normally fashionable and impeccably fastidious about her clothes, but a far cry from conservative. The suit seemed a bit off kilter, but then again she was working a real job in some law firm now. I opened the door to blazing sunlight and bade her farewell.

Martin sat in a small patch of shade beside the house. His head was inches from the hum of the air conditioner unit that dripped water on the white concrete. I left him writing letters and aimed the Cutlass into the streets, drifting through sunlit neighborhoods under palms and a vivid blue sky. The concrete roads and sidewalks were bleached white in the heat.

I sorted out the basic layout of the area. Gyms were outrageously expensive, and I hadn't located nearby parks with chin-up bars. I switched exercise strategy to pools. A pool charging a one dollar admission fee festooned with huge Latino guys wearing gold chains was my new spot. The guys hanging round were chatting up curvy girls with monumental hair held in place with so much hairspray it reflected light like the chrome top of the Chrysler building at high noon.

I was the only person actually using the pool to swim. I spaced out, meditating into the hyper clear depths of the sky doing backstroke. The very edge of my vision was framed by the tops of palm trees swaying in the breeze. I heard nothing but the garbled water noises punctuated by the occasional muffled whoop of one of the guys working on the chicks. I lay in the sun and slept for fifteen minutes.

Maria and Joanne arrived home from work and piled in the car with Martin and I. All the famous names and places glide past in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. We'd already been here in a million TV shows and movies. Martin visited a friend living on Sunset. Maria took me to Amok Books. The offbeat stock includes the whole line of strange little Crispin Glover books. Books about serial killers sit beside self published radical anarchist stuff. At Bourgeois Pig Books and Coffee Bar Maria directed me to more marginalized small press books.

Walking along Sunset with Maria I commented,

"It's weird how quiet it is. The street is devoid of action. Barely any cars, nobody shopping. Even street weirdos and bums are in sparse supply; usually only one stationed per block."

She snickered,

"One of these guys is worth ten back in Vancouver. There are some real doozies here."

The traffic passing the cheap small hotels and single story buildings seemed to be in cruise mode. Everyone was driving 20 MPH. Unlike most large tightly compressed cities, everything is spread out and loose in L.A. The strip has a languid undulating energy instead of the typical pulsing big city rush. I liked the slow casual feel in the hot sun and ruffling breeze. The tinge of Art Deco style spread over many buildings reinforces the feeling that this is where John Fante and Raymond Chandler idled away time.

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Maria's work regimented her into early bedtimes. I delivered her back to Sherman Oaks along with Martin who goes to bed early; job or no job. The Cutlass soared out into the complexity of the night freeways into switchback roads in Hollywood Heights where Joce's friend Patrick had a house atop a hill in Glendale. After several enforced early nights for their trade show schedule, Joce, Jack and Astrid were breaking free for a night.

A party was in full swing. Patrick held rhythm on a steel guitar while Jack put lead guitar over on a nylon string acoustic. Big wood beams formed an A shaped ceiling with open ended windows sucking air out of the night over verandas providing a view of the glittering city lights. The party showed no signs of weakening despite dawns' blue light coming up. I wanted to sleep, and it wasn't going to happen here. I made it back to Sherman Oaks in time to meet Maria on the front steps as she left for work.

Martin was at his post beside the air conditioner in the courtyard working on some writing, trying to make sense of his limbo. Thomas Wolfe's assertion that you can't go home again is true. Martin's failed attempt to salvage his old life in the Bay Area plunged him into the abyss. Martin campaigned for a year of long distance phone calls from Vancouver and jumped through all the hoops to no avail. He couldn't bridge the gap that had developed in his absence. There is something about him that didn't fit in with the upwardly mobile people and now Leslie was one of them. The fact he was hanging out with me spoke volumes about how far out of the mould he really is.

I've never even attempted to pretend to fit in. Twenty years of society hasn't made a dent. Years and years of TV and small talk usually wear off the last vestiges of everyone's personality leaving generic bland worn down sandstone smoothness. I'm still a hard diamond of sharp edges impervious to the waterfall of bullshit trying to dilute my essence. It was often a trial for Martin to hang out with me, but his mere affinity with me spelled damnation for his success with people playing the game.

I went off on my swim and finally got some sleep, napping in the sun. Maria and I had dinner together and strolled at sunset in her neighborhood. We sequestered ourselves in her room. Maria detailed her plans for a new life here in L.A. She has a very orderly mind but a perky kind of mischievous personality which makes her an intriguing mix. After she went to sleep, I plucked Martin out of his courtyard writing post before he could protest that it was his bedtime and headed to downtown L.A. Maybe if he did something other than pondering his fate he could snap out of the doldrums. We dropped in on Joce and company in their hotel

"Look at this place!"

Martin laughed,

"Well, you can tell we're not actually in the worst areas like Watts, because the those fences are only 15 feet high and the razor barb wire isn't up to federal penitentiary standards. This is just baseline security..."

Armed guards patrolled the lot. After seeing the massive hotel security no one felt too inspired to venture out into the night anymore. Everyone in the hotel room winding down with coolers had put in a full day of work after the all nighter in Glendale. Jack and Astrid went to bed early. Joce is always jittery with energy, staying up with us to watch a movie on the free movie channel.

Next day Joce was keen to explore the city,

"Today is a slow day at the trade show. Astrid is going to hold down the fort."

Joce, Martin and I got in the Cutlass. It was surprisingly easy to drive and park right on The Strip. Most well known large cities are virtually impassable, but L.A. was accessible. We strolled along the part of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood that is nicknamed Sunset Strip.

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The Strip was a central hub for music and hippies in the 1960s. The TV show 77 SUNSET STRIP was purportedly located on this stretch, despite the fact that the address should have been in the 8,500 block, not the 70 block. Show creator Roy Huggins (who also came up with THE FUGITIVE) placed the detective agency beside Dino's Lodge, a real life restaurant with Dean Martin's neon image on the sign. This is where the character Kookie parked cars. A small plaque at 8524 Sunset Blvd referencing the TV show took me back a decade. I told Joce and Martin,

"I first read about The Strip in an old CAR AND DRIVER article. It had this cool cover illustrating the insurance squeeze with a compressed picture of a Superbird in-between two hands. For the time period, it's a pretty impressive photo effect. Anyways, the article talked about the downfall of the strip. It also refers to 77 SUNSET STRIP in passing. The show was off the air before I was born but the remnants of all those old sixties shows keep floating about garage sales. I got a sideways exposure to all those shows like THE MAN FROM U*N*C*L*E and whatnot through board games and the tie in books and comics. I heard about it like most things after it was already gone."

Martin pointed out,

"But we did see STAR TREK firsthand."

I agreed,

"Yeah, but in syndication. So it was already a relic before we discovered it. Same as GET SMART. I read the tie in books before I saw the show."

Martin countered,

"In a sense we were there for STAR TREK. It was far more popular with fans and conventions by the time it was in syndication than it ever was when it was on the air."

"Yeah, you have a good point. To quote GET SMART, 'When the man is right, the man is right.'"

We were at the right address, but Dino's was of course long done. It was bulldozed. Back in the day, Dino's featured a string of female singers and would be singers. Nearby, The Whiskey a Go Go had hipper acts and set off the go-go dancing craze. A song, "Going to a Go Go" directly references the Whiskey which is was also in the 8,000 block and still survives.

This area suffered some setbacks due to backlash against the increasingly brazen 1960s counterculture taking over the street. Curfews squashed out the hippies and cruising muscle car guys alike. The focus of activity on this area never rebounded to the 1960s levels.

Early appearances by the Doors among other great acts imbued the Whiskey a Go Go with history, drawing us over to have a look. The entire building was recently painted purple. The last major band associated with the Whiskey was Guns and Roses. Nothing big had happened for a few years and the area was beginning to lapse. We noticed a lot of restaurants and hotels, but the rock and movie stars had begun fading out of this area.

Booksoup and a huge Tower Records outlet kept us busy. Joce got a few things for herself and then treated me to a great sushi meal right on the strip. Martin hates fish, and ate some fast food grease conglomeration instead. The sun shone a strong yellow haze over distant billboards turning the images into a grainy sepia old time movie.

"The spread out quality of the streets here is so relaxing. No crowds or pushing on sidewalks. No loud car traffic. No horns. I like the feel here."

Joce nodded, but Martin immediately contradicted me,

"This place is an unendurable cesspool."

I persisted,

"Nah. There is plenty of open space. The bright light makes this bit of Sunset seem expansive. You don't really notice that it's just a regular sized street."

Martin countered,

"I noticed that it's a regular sized street. This hellhole should be wiped off the face of earth."

Back at the hotel I wanted to eat. Martin's brooding fog amped up. It was dinnertime, so I wasn't out of line to want to eat again, but my constant obsession with food was exasperating him. He had spent all his time over the last two months waiting for me to procure and eat food. Then Joce announced that we were all going to the Grand Canyon and Sedona in a couple of days. I thought that would be fun.

Martin didn't,

"I'm not going."

I shrugged, "OK."

Joce didn't quite understand this and addressed me,

"But sweetie, don't you want to come to the Grand Canyon?"

I nodded "Yeah, I'm going."

Martin had his Digging In For The Siege face on, repeating himself,

"I'm not going."

The whole subtext of it all was that he had waited for me to eat or pursue girls day after day while I overstayed our welcome in Seattle, Portland, Salem, San Francisco and now it was going to happen again in L.A. the place he loathed beyond all other places.

"If you take off for the Grand Canyon, then the trip's off. I'll just take a bus to New Orleans on my own."

I said, "OK."

Joce was bewildered about what had just happened and how fast it went down. Martin stalked out of the room and started pacing out in the courtyard. I asked her,

"What's there to eat?"

"Why doesn't he want to go to the Grand Canyon? Is it because he doesn't want to go with me? Or is it Jack and Astrid? What is it?

"I'm guessing he doesn't want to go to the Grand Canyon. That's what he actually said. He's obsessively precise about what he says. What's to eat?"

"But why doesn't he want to go?"

"Well, this is the guy who closed his eyes when he went over the Golden Gate bridge to avoid seeing a 'must see' tourist vision. He probably lumps Grand Canyon in with all the things that he's been told he 'must see', so that means he has to NOT see it."

"I don't get it? He won't do something because he's supposed to do it?"

"Yeah, you know- why should he blindly follow the herd, bla bla bla. Is there any food in here?"

The fridge had nothing in it but beer and vodka coolers.

"Yes, of course I've got food here... but if he does the opposite of what is universally expected then he's still doing stuff according to other people, just in reverse!"

"Yep. Where's the food?"

Joce got on the phone and called room service. She persisted in trying to unravel the mystery that is Martin.

"But if he doesn't want to do the Grand Canyon he can just wait in L.A."

"He hates L.A."

"He hates L.A., he hates the Grand Canyon... "

"Well, he hates L.A. and he doesn't want to go to the Grand Canyon. He never said he hated it, just that he wasn't going. He's technical like that."

"So the trip is off? Just like that?"

I shrugged,

"I guess so."

Astrid and Jack arrived at the same time as room service. Jack stuck with his standard vodka cooler while Astrid drank beer. Joce invited Martin in for dinner. He slunk into a small rectangle of shade beneath an overhang in the parking lot and wasn't budging. Joce reported back that Martin didn't want to eat but he needed his luggage from Maria's.

I ate the majority of the food then drove Martin to Maria's. Joce came along for the ride, yammering away. Nothing she said could cover the silence between Martin and I. He got out at Maria's. We turned around and glided on down Sunset Boulevard heading to a party that Joce had unsuccessfully invited Martin to. Joce was perplexed,

"What's going to happen with Mr. Doom and Gloom?"

"I dunno. He said the trip was off."

"I don't understand any of this! Is he going to be at Maria's when you go back?"

"I don't know."

"What if he's gone when you go back?"

I shrugged. She kept at it,

"But what will you do? He's the only one of you two with money. You don't have ANY money. You can't even get back to Vancouver!"

"Who wants to go back there? I can do some garage sales here in town and see where that leads...they are like a spark leading to a flame. All you need is a buck to start. One dollar spent at the right sale leads to a twenty dollar profit which you channel into more sales and more profits... soon you've made $100.00."

She shook her head at my utter refusal to deal with reality. But suspension of disbelief had proved to be a success formula on this trip. I was riding a wave that showed no sign of cresting yet.

Back at Glen Oaks the party carried on in a seamless continuation of the night two days before. The steep steps leading up to the house on the top of the hill were filled with streams of people going up and down. The main participants were all still there rooted in the same spots. Music blasted. Tables overflowed with empty bottles. As the night wore on someone suggested seeing the sunrise on the beach.

Venice Beach always interested me ever since I found an old 1959 book about the beat invasion of Venice called THE HOLY BARBARIANS. In the 1960s the hippies took over from the beats. The Doors lived down there. Henry Rollins and Dennis Hopper lived here now, keeping the tradition alive.

Just like every other spot in L.A. free street parking instantly appeared. We walked a few hundred feet to the beach. Faded buildings and remnants of canals left over from a failed "American Venice" scheme were almost all subsumed by time. Counterculture types slogging heavily through the streets on the way home from all night partying. We passed roaming thugs glaring balefully wearing bandanas and flannel shirts with the top button done up.

Streets dead ended about 100 yards away from the water's edge. The ocean was fairly cold. I went in up to my knees. A wave crashing over top of my chest knocking me backwards ended my ocean time. I'd been awake too long by now to take on the ocean. Back on the sand everyone was blissing out. Soon the world around us came awake with joggers, bicycles and roller skaters.

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Walking down the beach we came across outdoor weights inside a fenced off paved area. Famous Muscle Beach, epicenter of the Weider Universe has a small home gym feel to it sitting in the open air. Massive pro bodybuilders were doing sets getting their sun and sea air. This is where Arnold Schwarzenegger and company worked out in the 1970s documentary PUMPING IRON. Jack and I didn't have a membership to access the weight equipment behind the locked gate.

A throng of onlookers stood around watching the pros working out. Being in close proximity to weights made me really want to do a workout. Substitute exercises like swimming and chin-ups I'd done for the last two months didn't compare to the intensity of weights. I tried to talk some of the guys into letting us in for free but that wasn't going to happen. One of the guys, Bob talked to me through the fence about Arnold Schwarzenegger,

"He loves this area. This is where his roots are. He still works out at the Gold's Gym most mornings. It's just a few blocks from here. If you hit the gym early you'll see him. He's bigger in real life than you expect. You see the new breed of freaky bodybuilders, and he's kinda normal looking compared to them so you don't expect him to look awesome. But if you see him up close, he's still incredible."

He pointed into the streets in back of the boardwalk where Golds was located. I asked how much it was.

"I have a membership so I'm not certain about drop ins. I think a drop in is ten or fifteen bucks."

That shot down my plan to workout at Golds. I was curious if anyone knew Mike Mentzer, the first bodybuilder to win a major contest with a perfect 300 out of 300 score. He was the first completely balanced bodybuilder in the bigger is better era. He had huge bones, so his wrists seemed proportionate the way comic book artists rendered superheroes. Mentzer was a fascinating individualist on a mission to refine bodybuilding techniques with his 'Heavy Duty' system. Mentzer became a fervent devotee of Ayn Rand which would prove to be his undoing. Bob knew Mentzer,

"Yeah, he's still here. He totally lost it after the Australian Olympia. He can't put it out of his mind. He's not training like he used to, he spends all his time writing philosophy stuff. He's obsessed with the Sydney contest. He's not the same guy he used to be."

The other guy joked, "If you like Mentzer, then you should be cool about not working out for two months. You don't want to be overtrained!"

Everyone laughed at that one. Mentzer's theories did work to a degree, though. For the first three weeks that I didn't have access to weights I kept getting bigger and more defined without doing any exercise. Now after two months of mainly swimming I was getting smoother and softer.

I told the bodybuilders a funny story I'd heard about Mike Mentzer,

"I heard that Mike would stroll around Venice Beach eating an ice cream cone right before contest time. The other guys were torturing themselves on restrictive diets while Mike casually savored his ice cream. They would caution him that he was going to blow his cuts for contest time and he brushed them off saying, 'A calorie is a calorie.'"

Two of the guys shook their heads and laughed,

"That sure sounds like Mentzer. He has to be contradictory about EVERYTHING!"

Bob said,

"I never heard that one! That guy just loves controversy..."

Bob pointed out who made the best protein smoothies out of the myriad amusement park style stands on the boardwalk. Fast food and ice cream joints were side by side with vegetarian or muscle protein places.

Jack and I found a set of bars that were open to the public near a swing set and improvised a workout of chins, dips and pushups. The boardwalk was coming alive with a parade of characters. A teepee sat out on the grass where hippies had set up shop. On the boardwalk a guy wearing a turban played electric guitar through a portable amp strapped to his back.

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Someone told me he was famous for riding up and down the boardwalk in roller skates playing his electric guitar. He does it every day the way most people go to a job. Other eccentrics hung about. Hippies with backpacks congregated at a Hemp information stand. Tourists ate ice cream. Street guys checked garbage cans.

After a day at Venice Beach the onset of darkness sent us back to the relentless perpetual motion machine party on top of the hill. It made sense to wait until the L.A. freeway traffic was gone and the temperatures were a bit cooler. At least that was the rationale we used to explain why we were sitting around all night instead of on the road. Sometime just before dawn the next day we got out of there.

Joce and I were cruising along in the Cutlass through the dark empty highways of L.A. at 90 MPH with a warm breeze washing over us. We came upon Jack and Astrid at a gas stop in the desert. We drove in tandem for awhile with their little Acura GS-R setting the pace. I slowed it right down when a huge sand storm hit. We lost them in the fog of sand particles. Despite the heat we had to roll up all the windows and close the vent windows and the interior ventilation system.

Sand whipped the windshield so forcefully you could hear the tiny pieces of grit slam into the glass and steel between us and the furies of the buffeting wind. Our lights reflected back at us from the clouds of sand. Joce said,

"It feels like we're in a cocoon wrapped up in this sand."

The engine noises and road noises were blotted out by the white noise of the wind. I pulled the car off the road to save the engine from sucking up all that sand. When the storm died down a bit we slowly rode through the whipping sand into the rising dawn. The sun was well up by the time the two lane highway deposited us in a small town. We had missed the signs but deduced that it was likely Kingman, Arizona. All we cared about was sleep. I cruised about searching for a good spot to crash out.

"Aha! A cowboy bar! Perfect. It'll be shut down for a couple of hours before the noon drunks start to show up."

I wheeled round back and lo and behold there was the little Acura,

"Great minds think alike!"

The back seats of the Acura folded flat. With the hatch back open, Jack and Astrid's feet protruded out back while they slept. We rolled up alongside and fell asleep wondering where we were and what was next.

Joce and I slept one hour before the heat thickened air and glaring sun pouring in through the windshield forced us awake groggy and lethargic. Jack and Astrid were perky. They hadn't slowed for the dust storm and subsequently managed to fit in four hours sleep.

Jack confirmed that we were in Kingman, Arizona. He and Astrid drove the Acura leading the Cutlass in caravan through town to a gas station he'd spotted the previous night. We all washed up. I ate some food laid out on the hood of the Cutlass as my table. No one else ate anything at all. It was noon and very hot when we set out. Astrid outlined the plan,

"I think it makes best sense for us to start with Sedona and camp for a night. That gives us all day to make it to the Grand Canyon tomorrow. Then we hopefully will have some time to catch a few rattlers." Astrid and Jack were keen to catch rattlesnakes so she could make clothing with the skins.

We passed abandoned cars on the side of the road with hoods up. The road was festooned with long pieces of shredded tire carcasses and almost no other traffic. Very desolate under the giant sweeping sky. Despite the grim evidence of the destructive power of desert heat Jack maintained a solid 90-100 MPH along Interstate 40. Jack set the pace while Astrid kept vigilant watch on the radar detector.

At a bathroom break in a parking lot I ate tuna from a can. No one else ate. The priority was to buy more ice and replenish the vodka coolers and beer. I saw Astrid nibbling on a cracker. Joce was too hot and excited about Sedona to eat.

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Once we headed south on number 93 the sparse heat hazed yellow desert began to transform into more greenery. We diverted onto 89 and plunged into a deep red landscape. I immediately recalled the old Max Ernst paintings from his stay in this area. The soil was pure red and moist looking. Small trees lined the road. Eden, also known as Sedona pulled into view.

Sedona retains a small town feel. This is before movie stars and other high profile people made it a famous destination and created a real estate boom and traffic. For years, Sedona was used as a location for movie shoots and was a hangout for stars, but it didn't filter down into public lore for some reason.

City ordinances prevent crass ugly signs or drab buildings from appearing anywhere in town. Even the local mall mimics adobe building style with muted green and grey colored signs. No vibrant screaming yellow signs or hideous drive-throughs here. We explored a few shops.

The Eye of the Vortex bookstore has a large selection of new age books. The name of the store refers to the belief that spiritual vortexes converge in Sedona at some of the rock towers. Some white new age people were making pilgrimages there with feathers and little leather pouches all derived from Native Indian culture.

At the base of Bell Rock, a psychedelic painted hippy bus was parked with a few barefoot hippies selling handmade jewelry and rare gems. It was like an unbroken channel back to 1969. The main hippy guy was probably in his early 40s making him the right age to be telling the truth that he adopted the lifestyle at age 20. He stayed in the countercultural stream despite it being nearly dried out all around him.

Some of the hippies said that a bunch of alien hunters were scouting about the area.

"Spaceships land here because of a joining of fault lines connected to Stonehenge. There's some kind of multi dimensional window in this spot."

They also told us that the air here was so pure that aerial photographs showed a dispersal of smog radiating outwards from the center of Sedona. It seems almost everything you could imagine was attributed to the vortexes.

Climbing up high, the view and the clarity of the air made me feel energized and hyper. The vortex energy might be feeding me, or just as likely staying awake for two days had used up all the reserves in my body and now I was tapping into my adrenalin. Joce was overwrought and emotional sobbing uncontrollably and inexplicably. I had eaten despite lack of sleep while she had not only been awake for two days but hadn't eaten anything at all for a day.

Jack and Astrid retained their composure doubtless from getting some sleep, all four hours of it that they had enjoyed in Kingman while Joce and I were slowly crawling through the desert storm that night.

We found free camping alongside Grasshopper Creek. Joce and I took a peek at the view overlooking a creek. The black water merged into the darkness of the night. A campfire in the hills above us was manned by people who felt that it was necessary for everyone within a two mile radius to hear their Led Zeppelin blaring out of a boom box. A wolf howled in the distance.

Joce and I were fumbling with the lines and poles and basically did nothing towards putting up our own tent. Jack and Astrid leaped out of the GS-R and instantly organized the gigantic mess of poles, ropes and pegs into a system. Jack sprinted around in a motion buzz that Astrid almost equaled. He had tent up, firewood collected, spark set, and fire ablaze with a vodka cooler in his hand before you could figure out how it all happened. I put a can of beans dead center of the fire to heat them up. Then realized we had no utensils for taking it out again. The flames enveloped the can creating a solid thick barrier of flame around the can reaching 3 feet into the black starry sky.

I reached right through the fire quickly grabbed the can in my hand and set it on a rock. I had singed a few hairs but had moved so fast there was no burn.

"Wow! Nice move. You could go on the road with the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow. We should rename you the Torture King!"

Astrid and Jack crashed out in back of the Acura while Joce and I got the tent. Early the next morning, clear air and the sound of the creek announced a truly 'fresh new day'. The water was ice cold in the creek cutting our swim to less than five minutes.

Time to head North. The red soil receded, and blanched desert sand replaced it. As the highway climbed upwards, small bushes and minimal foliage became denser. At the edge of the canyon a ranger station charged us $10.00 to enter at 4:52 PM. The receipt was good for seven days.

The Canyon was very sunny and bright even at this hour, but surprisingly cold. Wind whipped our hair and clothes like a flag on a pole. The Grand Canyon is so deep that it's hard to comprehend the true scope of the depths it plumbs. There aren't any man made objects to use as a reference guide to gauge the size of things in the bottom of the canyon.

The colors and shapes entrance and mesmerize. Hours passed staring out at the vastness. Jocelyn needed to get something from the Acura and Astrid handed her the keys. Back in the canyon the sheer size of the opening creates a sense of quiet and still thought despite the buffeting of wind and even the presence of other tourists.

The desert got very cold. I realized that it was night. The stars were out when Joce and I went to the Grand Canyon Lodge restaurant for steaks followed by beers. When we sauntered outside Joce suggested we go to the Acura to check up on Astrid and Jack.

"WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU?!!"

Jack and Astrid were locked out of the car wearing shorts and short sleeved shirts in the freezing whipping wind of desert night. Jocelyn realized with a sinking feeling that she still had the keys to the Acura in her purse. Astrid was livid. Jack was annoyed and voiced similar complaints but the showdown was really between Astrid and Jocelyn. Joce was sorry, but that wasn't good enough. Pressures had been building up between the two girls over a few things. A full scale war broke out in the parking lot overlooking the canyon.

Jack offered me a vodka cooler which I gratefully accepted. My mild beer buzz wasn't sufficient to shut out the shrill accusations flying back and forth. Jack and I drank several coolers while the two girls screamed in fury. The final plan was that Joce would drive back with them from Vegas, but until then they didn't want to hang out with her. The little Acura raced to Vegas while Joce and I cruised slowly to Vegas in the Cutlass. She cried without let-up until she succumbed to exhaustion and passed out in the front seat.

I was tired when we crossed the Hoover Dam at sunrise. We actually crossed the dam since Highway 93 runs along the top face of the dam connecting Arizona and Nevada. The base of the dam widens from the 45 feet up top that carries the road down to 660 where it has to hold back all that water. The dam is over 700 feet high. Old white face clocks informed us of the time in the various states bordering this area. Signs told a bit of the story about the dam. It was built in the depression era and years later named for President Herbert Hoover after initially being dedicated by President Roosevelt as the Boulder Dam. Art Deco styled sculpture and decorative floors took us back to the 1930s New York skyscraper style of architecture. A stylized monument was dedicated to the many workers killed building the dam. Dark blue black water of the Colorado River with jagged waves pushed against the wall, powering the hydro electric-dam.

"They probably need a big dam to generate enough power to handle all the neon lights in Vegas."

The first place after the Dam was a giant city block sized hotel in Boulder City that was full up. As we had learned from the signs, Boulder City was originally built as a town for the dam workers. Because of gambling in Nevada, Boulder is the first legal place to gamble once you cross over from Arizona. For those who couldn't wait for the half hour drive to Vegas, instant gratification awaited in the form of huge casino hotels. I pulled the Cutlass off the road and parked it on weedy gravel overlooking Lake Meade dropping into sleep in the front seat. Jocelyn climbed into the back seat and began fidgeting, tossing and turning. The car kept rocking and shifting,

"STOP FUSSING! SIT STILL IF YOU CAN'T SLEEP!"

That started Joce on a crying jag once more. My need for sleep overrode any compassion or sensitivity,

"OUT!!"

She got out of the car to sulk and cry. I started to drift off too late. The heat was building with every incremental notch the sun rose. Now Boulder was waking up. A wall of noise from tourists blaring radios at maximum volume mingled with the mosquito-like whine of Sea Do engines screaming. Guys mindlessly pointlessly circled over and over, ripping up and down, up and down in ear splitting loud Sea Dos until I was at the point of wanting to kill them all,

"It's impossible to sleep. Get in the car- we're finding a hotel."

Driving through Henderson and East Las Vegas traffic we encountered many NO VACANCY signs. My nerves were ragged from sleep deprivation. Joce's steady sobbing didn't help matters. Finally at 8:33 AM with great relief we checked into the Royal Oasis on 4375 South Las Vegas Boulevard for $36.00. It was 105 degrees F outside. By 9:30 AM total exhaustion put an end to Jocelyn's crying and she finally fell asleep in a fitful avalanche of tossing, twitching and turning. Despite being tired, I was kept awake by the shaking bed. I took a swim and lay on a towel in the sun soaking wet. I passed out hard for an hour, waking up dry and hot with indentations in my skin from the poolside cement. At noon back in the room, Joce seemed to have stopped her restless fidgeting and I mercifully passed out in the still bed.

Just like in Kingman a few days earlier, Joce and I coincidentally chose the same place to sleep as Jack and Astrid. When we emerged from the cool dark A/C into the searing bright beating desert afternoon heat we ran into Jack and Astrid driving across the parking lot. Jack rolled down the window and pointed to the end of the building,

"We were in the room around the corner, on the back end of the hotel."

Jack and I were still on friendly terms, but politics dictated he remained a bit formal with Jocelyn since Astrid and Joce were still in the deep freeze with one another. Astrid made arrangements to pick up Joce for the ride home tonight at midnight and then they were gone to the desert for the day.

Joce cried and wasted time ostensibly getting ready to go out for breakfast. Finally at 4:30 PM ready or not, crying or not I dragged her to the Hacienda. In the Charcoal Room I ate an omelette while Joce bawled and bawled. Nothing could placate her. I wouldn't let her leave the table until she ate her food. Normal blood sugar might reverse her emotional turmoil. People looking over at our table probably assumed I was some kind of degenerate gambler who had lost our entire savings in some stupendous gambling frenzy. The recrimination dialogue would probably run like this,

"Sorry honey... I know you were attached to your wedding ring. I'll buy you another one just as soon as we're back on our feet. I'm sorry about losing the car, but we'll get another one someday. I was really hot. I was on a winning streak. Oh, um, and also... during all the excitement I signed over the mortgage to the house. Who could predict this would happen? It was a sure thing... "

"You lost our HOUSE!!?"

In reality, the earth shattering news was so mundane I couldn't get serious about it. Joce howled,

"They don't even want to hang out with us!"

"So what? They're pissed off. Let them do their own thing on their own schedule. You'll be riding back with them anyways..."

"She didn't even talk to me. She told it all to you. She won't even speak to me!! Astrid didn't even look at me--ee---aaa-wwwh-ahh-hoo-hoo..."

"We've barely slept the past four or five days. That's why you're hysterical. They are calm and rational because they slept in Kingman that first night. If you don't eat something your whole system is going to collapse. We're not budging from this table until you eat your omelette."

After an hour of her sobbing and carrying on Joce finally ate when I kept placing the fork back in her hand over and over. Miraculously, the tears stopped. She focused on what I was saying for the first time all day,

"We'll go get some fruit, and then we'll look around. We're here and there's no reason to not to have a fun time. Jack and Astrid are checking out the place and having fun, and so will you."

desertolds-las-vegas-flamingo-daytime

She nodded assent and tried the slots. We both lost money and interest during our short foray into gambling. Up at a Von's on Tropicana we loaded up on fruit then spent a few hours in the Royal Oasis eating and getting it on. Later we cruised the strip. Joce enjoyed the elaborate lights of the casinos as darkness hit. We spent the rest of the night holed up in the hotel room again making the most of our last night together.

At midnight a knock on the door summoned her to the Acura for the ride back home. A day on their own seemed to have mellowed out Jack and Astrid. They welcomed Joce into the car encouragingly. She hesitantly got inside, like a kid testing the water temperature in a swimming pool. Hopefully she would have a nice trip back home.

desertolds-vegas dunes night

The smart thing to do now would be to go to sleep, so of course I went out to investigate the neon strip. I went bar hopping in places with 75 cent drinks. Soon I discovered that casinos give free drinks if you gamble. Even cheap slots counted. Playing 25 cents in a slot got you a vodka screwdriver. Sometimes you got a free drink even before you wagered a cent. The casinos had it worked out just like insurance companies. They didn't need a big margin when dealing with massive volume. Casinos tolerated minnows such as me feeding off them without contributing to the pot, because it wasn't worth ruining the vibe to nickel and dime everyone. I didn't make it to bed till dawn.

Next morning I woke up at 8 AM despite all the late nights leading to this point. I felt good. I rarely get hangovers because vodka is a clear, clean drink free of sulfates or added colors. The day was hot and bright as the Cutlass pulled out onto Las Vega Boulevard. The tank was down below the quarter mark. I had no money but there was something in my account.

A 7-11 ATM the machine said, "Insufficient funds." I wasn't panicking yet, but the alarm was starting to sound. A real bank ATM declared "Invalid PIN". As I drove from place to place I could almost feel the gas draining out of the car. Soon I was searching desperately for an ATM machine that would payoff just like a slot player looking for his jackpot. There wasn't enough gas to make it to L.A. I had to find an ATM that would cooperate.

Finally in desperation, I talked to a real person in a bank who repeatedly asked,

"Are you sure this isn't an old cancelled card? Maybe you switched it with your new card? Nothing is coming up on my screen."

Finally when I convinced her that this was my one and only bank card she told me that my card was probably demagnetized and I'd have to get a new one.

"How will this work? We're about 1,300 miles away from my home branch."

There was nothing she could do. Back out into the searing 115 Degree heat. There was half of a one gallon jug of water in my plus column. A useless bank card and empty pockets, no gas, no food and an insurmountable distance between me and my money made a hefty hole in the minus column. After a few hours I was getting sick of driving up and down the strip and parked the car to save the small amount of gas left.

No stone was left unturned as I walked all over Vegas alternating between searing heat and blasting cold A/C. ATM machines inside casinos, Western Union offices, convenience stores, banks, malls all refused to dole out money. An impressive pile of slips provided various explanations for no money, including "Item not on this network" to "Expired Card".

I got a free drink and took a break sitting in a chair in a casino. Maybe I should call Martin collect in L.A.

Then I remembered that a week ago he had threatened to take a bus to New Orleans. I wondered if he was still waiting at Maria's after all these days. If he took the bus a week ago he was already in New Orleans.

The irony was that Joce had offered to give me money to get back to L.A. and I'd turned it down. She had already paid for our room at the Royal Oasis and for food and gas. She'd contributed way above and beyond and had spent more on this trip than she initially planned for. I also knew there was still some money on the bank card. I was right about it being there, just not about it being accessible.

Finally at noon I struck gold at an unassuming looking ATM inside a one story hole in the wall casino. What a relief. I knew exactly how those gamblers feel when the slot machine finally pays out!

desertolds-NV desert outside vegas

$40.00 left some change after a gas-up. I hit Interstate 15, worried about how far the gas would take me. The 40 bucks was depleted and the tank might not last me to L.A. I engaged in the masochistic endurance test of driving in 115 degree desert heat with all the windows rolled up to squeeze out the extra 20 percent MPG that would give me. The gallon jug of water was hot as fresh tea. The chemicals in the plastic were probably breaking down in the heat and infesting the water. But I was thirsty. Soon I'd drunk all the water.

Shortly, all the windows were down, to hell with saving gas. At the first rest stop a Native American girl sold handmade jewelry laid out on a blanket. Cadillacs sat with engines on fast idle churning out A/C air while someone dashed out into the heat to use the restrooms. I soaked up a bit of sun and got back on the road.

The gas gauge was dangerously low and the desert stretched out in all directions. I stopped the car for a piss and stood in the hot sun. A tire tread carcass lay beside an empty liquor bottle. A car shot past going towards Vegas on the other side of the highway.

desertolds-vegas-desert-whiskey-tire-tread

The Cutlass made it into L.A. and rolled to a stop in front of Maria's place. It was nothing short of a miracle that I had made it there. The tank had been on empty since I entered the city limits of Los Angeles.

I saw a welcome sight that I wasn't really expecting to see: Martin was right at his post beside the air conditioning unit in the courtyard. He hadn't gone to New Orleans on the bus.

It looked like nothing had changed, but apparently he'd gotten bombed at a party and stirred up some mischief. Nothing at all was said about his threat to leave on the bus last week. We both acted as if everything was totally normal and because of that, it was.

Maria was getting ready to sleep. I hadn't slept at all for days and should have followed suit, but was amped on adrenaline. Maria gave Martin and I the names of some bars in L.A. to try out.

We went to find hot young girls and found tired old men entombed in a dead zone of bars that time forgot. Frank Sinatra on the jukebox and nobody in the bar. Next place was so dark it took a few moments to discern the craggy faced old drunks in back staring off in space drinking in silence. Small motels with neon and palms offered half assed lounges full of grizzled emaciated old men, death hovering but too lazy to descend just yet. Charles Bukowski probably drank in half these places. The 'hip' places which went out of their way to hide themselves behind plain numbered doors didn't answer our knocks.

"Fuck this! I'm not wasting another second looking for these stupid bars! Only idiots think a place is elite when they are forced to stand behind a velvet cord on the street half the night. To disguise the location, thinking it's some kind of 'underground cool' tactic is just the next progression in that imbecilic mind game. Anyone willing to engage in this treasure hunt is someone I don't want to have to meet. Regular bars are already packed with fools willing to waste their time sitting around. Taking it a step further with this fake complexity is over the limit! Only the most mindless members of what is already a passive section of humans are going to be up for this time wasting shit."

We hit the freeway at 110 MPH and saw much of L.A. in flashes imprinting themselves on us like cards flipping over too quick to follow. Eventually we started riffing away on some other subjects as the car took us up down and around the basically dead town. Martin was very eager to escape L.A. and suggested we hit the road tomorrow night when the desert drive would be cooler.

 

 

 

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 18 March 2021 21:04 )