Saturday, September 25, 2010

Desert sojourn: day 16: Up above and down below

From a letter to the editor of the local paper on the controversy about whether the nearby town of Yucca Valley should permit the construction of a Super Wal-Mart (Yucca Valley is the only suburbanized town here, full of shopping centers, national chains, and stoplights; they already have a Wal-Mart the size of a hanger for jetliners, the controversy is over whether they should be allowed to build a "Wal-Mart Supercenter" the size of a football stadium):
For individuals who have no financial worries, please think of those of us who live on limited incomes. We are the ones who travel down below once a month to shop at a Wal-Mart Supercenter.
They travel "down below" -- in other words, west on the highway down a long, steep grade to Palm Springs. Up here we are in the Mojave Desert, elevation 1500 to 5000 feet; down below they are in the Colorado Desert, elevation from below sea level to about 900 feet. There's a real awareness here about the difference between life up here and down below. Not only is it cooler, less humid, and prettier up here, it's much less suburbanized -- except for Yucca Valley.

Yucca Valley is a story in itself, and I should be devoting more time to researching it. There's a reason the place is full of shopping centers: the town is run by developers and their chums. And reportedly they all go to the same big-box evangelical church. All very cozy.

I didn't write yesterday because I was tied up with work all day, and then I drove over to Christine's in Wonder Valley to watch a DVD with her and Deborah and a neighbor. Antonioni's Le Amiche (English title "The Girlfriends") from 1955. Wow, it was so beautiful, and the direction was so fluid and complex. Back then he was as good as Kurosawa in shooting complicated interior shots with people standing all over the frame, depth of focus, and lots of movement. It was so good.

The full moon has been gorgeous the last few nights. And as I lay in bed last night I heard coyotes howl. That was nice. But then in the middle of the night I awoke to a ruckus, a great deal of barking -- lots of people here have dogs -- and the desperate howl of a wounded animal. It didn't sound like a rabbit (plenty of them around here); I was thinking a pack of dogs might have got at a smaller dog.

Well, I thought there wasn't a pack of dogs around here. But this morning when I went on my walk, I took precautions. The only danger, however, was a chihuahua.

Update, 9:00 pm: I took a long drive, winding up on the old Route 66 where it cuts through the desert north of here. I took this picture somewhere around the ghost town of Chambless, looking back toward the Sheephole Mountains in the distance, behind which are Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree. This picture fails to capture the dramatic sweep of the desert land, which is very beautiful out there.

No comments: