Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Quirky Califonia: Salvation Mountain

As lovely as Barstow was, we quickly hit the road once more, putting distance between it and us. There was a lot of ground to cover, and not much time to cover it in – not if I wanted the sun to be in the right spot for all the potential photographic opportunities.

Once more I wondered just what life would be like, free of the photographic addiction. Probably a lot more fun in the moment, and a lot more depressing, “for the rest of your life.” I'll take the forever good over the momentary, thank you very much.

We would make five stops today: Pioneertown, Dinosaurs, Palm Springs, Salvation Mountain, and San Diego. I can tell you in order of awesome to not Salvation Mountain squeaks just in front of the Dinosaurs. Pioneertown is way ahead of Palm Springs, and San Diego can just go screw itself (It's a lovely city, more time needed – but our experience was one of anger and rage – rage and anger.)


This is a city – a real city, not some wacky re-creationists dream, where people live out their lives, and do their thing. They just all happen to look like they live in a place built one hundred years ago.

The city was constructed by the good ol' movie people who are always willing to do what it takes to cut costs. Why build sets for Westerns, they thought, when you can just build a town and reuse it?

The bank here looks like an old bank, the bar is a Saloon, and the Sheriff's office is just what you'd expect. There's a general store, and a livery. This is a town you'd expect to see gunfights in (and for the fans, one day a month you will.) But it is a real town. With real people. The outsides may deceive, for there are real buildings inside. A modern post office exists behind a wooden exterior. Even the people who live here have houses for the time – their insides, I can't speak to, but I would expect them to keep with the theme. After all, it must take a certain type of person to move to Pioneertown, California.

Looking down Mane Street (cute) you see the OK Corral. You may also notice the hitching posts for horses, bullet holes in signs, and their unique stop signs. Rather than red with four letters on them, they're brown with the sentence, “It's your choice.” I chose to stop.

There are art pieces here – circles of rocks where passers by leave items, statues, trinkets behind. A number of old typewriters stand resting on old desks, turning to rust. Perhaps a commentary on the western itself? So many machines – once greatly used, now nothing but dust in the waiting. Ignored, unloved.

Cabazon Dinosaurs.

“Calllllli-foooooooornia.” This one word has cycled through my mind for decades, since seeing what is arguably the longest commercial for a video game of all times, The Wizard. In this movie an autistic boy is on a quest to put a lunch pail in a dinosaur for his dead twin. Along the way he plays Mario 3, and becomes the greatest video gamer of them all. Also it tells us all that we should, “Love the power glove.” Why you ask? Because, “it's so bad.” Thanks Lucas.

When I was in Drumheller I pretended the T-Rex there was the real deal, but I knew it wasn't. Now though, the beasts were before me. Much photography ensued, and the repeating of the droned out name of the state we were currently in.

There is just difference between then, in the movie, and now – in real life. The statues have changed hands. Up inside the brontosaurus it's obvious what has happened.

The dinosaurs have been bought by a ultra religious group, and they're here to save your souls through the wisdom of the bible. Look – if you love your Jesus, very well. Continue to do so just don't go and kill in his name, or abuse your kids, or make them fear for their lives or anything like that and we'll be cool. But – if you're one of those The World is 6000 years old folks – you'll probably want to stop reading now. I'll try to stay polite, but it's a little tricky to not laugh, you know – a lot – when dealing with this sort of absurdity.

So these folks have signs that want to explain to you how the world is, obviously, only six thousand years old and that dinosaurs hung out with man. They're even mentioned in the bible. Now they died out because Noah ran out of room – of course he did, one of the dinosaurs would be bigger than his whole boat. Good job on the specifications God.

Now it's hard to imagine why all the underwater dinosaurs died, seeing as how the flood would have just increased their food supply, but never mind that – this is a place for faith, not for science. “It's easier to believe in God, the creator, then that we all came from a lightening bolt hitting a pool of mud,” it may be easier – but it's also easier for me to believe that if I stay home, don't work, and play video games all day, I'll have a fun-filled rewarding life. Odds are this is not going to happen.

So all the dinosaurs died, but six thousand years ago man was hanging out with them. Again – I'm not sure how this could have worked, because man still gets his butt handed to him by tigers and lions. Even when we have guns. A wooden spear, and some rocks against a dinosaur? That wouldn't end well. Not in my mind. Still, I loved the Sliders episode where they tried it out.

So up you go, learning about why you're stupid, and why Darwin is an idiot, “the simplest proof that there is no evolution is that no one has seen evolution.” Really? Do you think it works like Pokemon, you hit the level cap and there's an instant change? All of a sudden something morphs before your eyes? You don't think it's millions of years of chance (by the way, look in the red forest where nuclear radiation made a mess of things and you do see some instant change, but ignore that because it doesn't stay on message.) If you're taking your logical advice from Pokemon, you've got a few surprises coming. But go on, continue to use your splash attack in the face of science.

So we have trees that we can date back to five thousand years old by counting the rings. We know the earth is that old for sure. FOR SURE. Now you need to assume that there is nothing more existing a thousand years before that tree – you may think carbon dating would prove something, but no that's all a lie. Obviously. A hoax to keep you from god, your savior.

Don't listen to the devils C14 claims. Apparently a cowboy boot was found with a petrified human leg in it – this proves to the creationists that all fossils must be recent. It is interesting that a leg could petrify in fifty years – but personally I'd give the edge to this proving time travel is real, before allowing that it indicates God. Still – interesting. It's just unfortunate that people are willing to deny an entire science because of one aberration. An aberration which may have been caused by the awesomeness of time travel!

There was another thing they point at, though, which seemed interesting. Soft Tissue was recently found in a T-Rex bone. Therefore the world is only 6000 years old. Look – it's neat and all, but wouldn't this just indicate we don't know how fossilization works? Maybe it was just from Mokele-mbembe or Nessy, something like that. There you go – problem solved.

Now you may think my time travel and monster solutions are quick fixes with no basis in reality - but they're just as scientific as what goes on in this place – facts are for fools. Love your god, question nothing, Jesus is king. Good for Jesus.

I'm willing to hear out these theories – and willing to take their side, with Katherine screaming at me all the way, just to play with the possibilities - but none of it ever holds up. I really wanted to buy the Dinosaurs: By Design, not by Chance t-shirt and wear it everywhere. It was only 9.99 (two for 20 dollars! What value! Pay more for less – and thus I can no longer trust any of what I've read here today, if this is the logic they use) but did not fit. Katherine rejoices.

I had to take solace in the greatest children's book of all time. The Worlds Biggest Dinosaurs: By Design, not By Chance. In it, the two statues come to life and explain how god created them, and why scientists are stupid. It really is one of the best things I've seen all year.

As a final note – checking the name of the book on the website, I discovered that it's one of those pages that meets you with loud un-muteable sounds. You want to talk about Intelligent Design? Go ahead all you want – just try to put some of it into your HTML code next time, alright?

Palm Springs

Palm Springs. you always hear about it. maybe it's awesome, yeah? Nope. it's not. It's just a few streets. Nothing to get excited about. Move on.

Salvation Mountain

I may have seen pretty anti-religion back there, but it's not the case. I'm all for religion when it's not screwing with peoples heads, or making them want to kill others. Or making them want to wake me up to spread their love and knowledge with me early in the morning.

For years I have wanted to see Salvation Mountain. I first heard about it in some documentary. I never thought I would get the chance to see it in real life. It was almost forgotten until watching Into the Wild in Australia. There it came back to the forefront of my mind. And it hit me – I'm going to drive through America. I can see this place if I so choose. Salvation Mountain – I choose you!

Four hours out of our way we drove. And it was worth it. Even Katherine, who I feared may not be as stoked as myself, really enjoyed it. It's hard not to. It's Folk Art in the grandest way.

This is a testament to the love of god and Jesus. Leonard Knight, the creator, was not on hand, but visitors were all talking about him. Some hoped he'd be by to give tours, others wanted to see him work. No stayed for two hours, more or less, but there was no sign of him. Eventually we saw all we thought we could, and the heat as too much.

Kath returned to the air conditioned car far sooner than I – this was, after all, a place I' always wanted to see and I knew I would probably never again return.

When you drive up to Salvation Mountain, you're greeted with a large heart informing you that God loves everyone. Over the years people have tried to get Leonard to change his message by offering help, or money. He refuses. This is the type of Christian I can get behind.

More than 100 000 gallons of paint have been used here. But there is nary a souvenir shop to be found. This place is about spreading a message, not about getting rich. Leonard has turned the mountain into something more, as well. Bales of hay are used to form walls, and rooms, and an entire city. Rooms now surround the mountain, with new ones being formed all the time. The outline for another section has been laid out on the ground, but who knows when work on that area will be finished – if any work here can ever be finished.

Secret rooms offer glimpses of trophies, mirrors, books – my favourite section was a recliner situated beside a ladder.

There are places to sit, think, contemplate. Shirtless three lovers of faith find room in an alcove to contemplate their faith. Others climb to the top and pose near the cross.

Everyone is welcome here, an all are hoped to find comfort. Free water is placed for those to drink, and hammocks, chairs, and mattresses welcome people to rest for a while.

This is a place of beauty, a work of art. Even for those who care nothing for God whatsoever, there's something here to amaze.

Standing on top, looking off a quarter of a mile there are two concrete structures. They too are art, to a lesser degree. Both are covered in graffiti – one a modern kama sutra – the other, political in nature. Everything is art here – and it goes to show that each of us can be an artist if only we have a goal, and stick to it no matter what.

This will be Leonard's life work, and it may not long survive him. It is, after all, made only of paint and hay. There are also those who deem it a hazard, and for a while in 2002 it was feared it would be torn down. Today it is protected, and for that? I am glad.

San Diego
“It means Whales Vagina.” / “There's not way that's right.”

Look, it's a nice city – a good lookin' one, and the gaslamp area could be so much fun. But it was a long day, and we needed a place to stay. We had our room saver, but there was no joy. Place one listed at 34 bucks turned out to be 45, and was way too far from the city centre to be worth it. Not when there was a place in the city for that price. Of course that place was now 57 bucks – there was a “misprint” in the room saver. Yeah, one that has lasted the last three issues right? The next place was full due to a convention in town. The other fifty dollar place was full – but there were sister properties for only eighty bucks near by. Ugh – for an hour we circled the city in hopes of a place to sleep.

Finally we went back to the scamming hotel with the “wrong price in the book” and accepted that it would be fifty seven. I sent Katherine in as I'd been there before. She came out fuming that it was now seventy eight dollars. Forget that.

I grabbed the book, walked in, and asked for a room – wondering how it could have gone from forty five, to fifty seven to seventy eight.

I was told this was the two person price. Oh really? The coupon says one to two people. But that was a misprint I was told – see the reprint from months back that says the new price? Fine – give me the fifty seven dollars. Oh but that's just one person.

At this I had no more patience. I was either getting that price or we were flipping the bird at this city and moving on. I was ready to snap, and doing everything I could not to. I grabbed the sign with the BS three month old reprint, and pointed: “Look, even in your reprint it says one to two people. Just give me that price, and let us be done with it! Alright?”

Finally he stepped back, recomposed, and – as if doing me the worlds greatest favour – accepted. We had a place to sleep. Great. Good. Sorry San Diego, but I hate you... Hopefully I'll be back in the future and you can try and change my mind.

Good night, and god bless.

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