Thursday, May 24, 2012

Of these photos, I'm not sure which I like best, but the middle one is a heavy favorite.

In the top photo, we've got a bumper stick that reads: God Bless John Wayne. Pretty solid statement, I think. God Bless John Wayne, indeed.

In the middle photo, we've got a bulletin notifying the bar regulars (and anyone interested, I'd imagine) that Elena Silva (Gloria's sister) is coming to town to do hair at Gloria and Bill's. Cut, color and "hair do's" all for the cost of a donation. The best part? No appointment necessary, just come on in! You know what? God bless Elena too.

Last, but most certainly not least, the sign on the left reads: Don't let these innocent smiles fool you, these are cruel, vicious women. Kudos to whoever stapled that one up there.


P.S. - All of the dollar bills pictured have been signed and posted by patrons and visitors throughout the years. Ours reads: With love, Blue Jean Baby, L.A. Lady and Roger. It's stuck somewhere on the ceiling by the corner seats of the bar. Someone has a photo of it, but I dropped the ball on that one.

Roger wanted to do a photo shoot* and I wanted Roger to have some of my patty melt.

Truth be told, we were back in this weird part of the world to take some photos. Because Bourdain and my good buddy Andrew Sharp had recommended the Ski Inn, we made it our pre-location destination for planning and lunch... that turned into a location.

If a photographer should know anything about me being on the other side of the camera, it's that you should never use food as props. You have approximately twelve frames before that prop is gone.

*My dear friend Shasta Cross also made the trek from Los Angeles to hang in the desert and was also a part of this shoot - as you will definitely see. I cropped her snarfing a fry out of this shot (even though I didn't want to) because she would have punched me in the face... from L.A... had I not.


Photo by Roger Kisby.

Yep. You got me. Even in the middle of the desert do I take Anthony Bourdain's advice. So shoot me.

This is the Ski Inn. Specializing in the delicacy of patty melts, the Ski Inn is one of the only restaurants in Bombay Beach. This ain't Le Bernardin, people, but it's a pretty awesome joint.

In fact, this place changed the course of the rest of our day, based on the things we saw and the people we met. And you know what? That patty melt was pretty damn good.


Bombay Beach/California/5.1.12

After Stagecoach, my good friend and fellow photographer, Roger Kisby, came to visit me in the desert. Roger has been on a road trip since March 4th when we drove down to Austin for SXSW. Post-SXSW, well, he just kept on going. Having just quit his day job prior to our trip to Texas, Rog is now embarking on a full-on journey as a freelancer, quite literally. And to that, I say, "Welcome, Friend."

It really takes some balls to up and leave security, comfort and um... steady income, so I couldn't be more proud of him - particularly because he is already photographically kicking butt on his adventure. Photojournalism, photo shoots and on-the-fly portrait sessions have all appeared in his road trip portfolio, so if you like awesome things, you should check out his tumblr, Roger This and That.

In the above photo, I creepily take a photo of one of his impromptu portrait sessions with an elderly resident of Bombay Beach, California at the Ski Inn.

Oh yeah, and did I mention we are back at the Salton Sea?


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Salton City, CA/4.17.12

Before coming out to California this year, Jenny Bilec sent me a short film entitled: The Accidental Sea. Now, Jen always sends me interesting things, but this video in particular really piqued my curiosity.

This is the story of the Salton Sea. An accidental sea re-created by agricultural runoff from the Colorado River in the early 20th Century. I use the word re-created, because "Milions of years ago, during the Pilocene epoch, the area of today's Salton Sea was salt water and formed the northern tip of the Gulf of California. The Colorado River emptied into the east side of the Salton Sink, a north-south rift valley formed by the pulling and separating action of a web of fault lines including the San Andreas Fault. Eventually, the tons of silt carried by the Colorado created an alluvial plain that built up across the gulf and pinched off the northern end, creating a freshwater lake in what had been the tip of the Gulf of California.

Over the millennia, the watercourse of the Colorado River fluctuated, sometimes flowing south of the alluvial plain and straight into the Gulf of California, sometimes flowing north and replenishing the Salton Sink with fresh water. At its highest levels, water in the sink lay 44-feet above present lake levels. The waterline of what is referred to as Lake Cahuilla is still visible on the rocks around the Salton Sea. Yet, often evaporation exceeded inflow and the entire area was dry.

In the early 1900s, man meddled in nature's process and began to divert the waters of the Colorado for agricultural irrigation in the Imperial Valley, with runoff flowing into the Salton Sea. Shortly thereafter, [a] canal breach occurred that led to the most recent incarnation of the Salton Sea" (Snodgrass, National Geographic).

The flood destroyed farms, communities and the mainline of the Southern Pacific Railroad, but created a sea, California's largest inland body of water, in the desert. 35-miles long, 15-miles wide and 51-feet deep.

With sport fishing first promoted in 1907, the freshwater sea started to gain popularity in the 1920s as both a tourist and fisherman's paradise. With yacht clubs, restaurants and a golf course, the area attracted such celebrities as Jerry Lewis and the Marx brothers as frequent vacationers.

During WWII*, the Salton Sea harvested most of Southern California's fish, due to German submarines making ocean fishing grounds dangerous. Not surprisingly, developers in the 1950s saw the Salton Sea's commercial potential, declaring it "America's Riviera" and "California's French Riviera".

However, by the 1970s, with increasing levels of salinity (from salt-heavy soil of the prehistoric ocean), toxic run-off from Mexicali and pesticides from the Imperial Valley, the Salton Sea was becoming less of a dream town and more of a wasteland. Flooding during the middle of the decade left homes and businesses caked in salty mud, with very little reason for return.

As levels of toxins, algae, salt and bacteria continued to rise, the number of massive fish and bird die-offs due to selenium and botulism poisoning also increased. With the sea now 25% saltier than the ocean and the stench of thousands and thousands of dead fish in desert heat, the 1980s brought a mass exodus of the area, beginning its current era as a post-apocalyptic ghost-town.

While the communities of the Salton Sea are still inhabited, you find places like Salton City to have a strange energy about them. There are streets with names, but no developments. There are houses that look inhabited, but no people. There is a high school, but no students. There is a sea, but no swimmers, fisherman or boaters. There is a beach, but it's made of the bones and rotting carcasses of dead fish and waterfowl.

And yet, it clearly maintains attraction to a strange group of people. I would imagine anyone who visits these rogue communities has a particular interest in science fiction, or really, science in general. Having been there twice in the past month, I know there are so many more pieces to put together. I haven't been able to come to many conclusions, but I do know that the people don't say much. And if they do, it's friendly, casual and sometimes quite helpful, all the while, not seeming too bothered by their unusual, and technically toxic homeland.

So basically, either the Salton Sea mishap is not as big of a deal as outsiders make of it... or the residents are zombies. If the latter is the truth, I conclude that the undead are quite endearing and I should like to visit them again.

*FUN ALERT! Also during WWII: "dummy" versions of a new bomb are regularly and secretly dropped over the Salton Sea by B-29s of the U.S. Army's 393rd Heavy Bombardment Squadron, commanded by Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets. In August of 1945, Tibbets commands the mission to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

If you've properly followed the asterisk, you may have noticed that its source was about the Salton Sea as a food source during the war as well... Nothing like a little A-Bomb with your tilapia...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ohhhh Salton City. Where do I even begin? The city on an accidental sea with a promise of a commercial desert oasis. As you can see, that's not exactly what happened. More to come on one of the most fascinating towns I've been to in the United States.

Salton City, CA/4.17.12

En route to Salton City, CA/4.17.12

Literally en route, as the motion blur suggests. The bottom photo was taken pre-Saltvation-Mountain and the top was pre-Salton-City.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Last two photos of Stagecoach. Crowds, cowboy hats, high-fives and a ferris wheel.


Brad Paisley/Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.29.12

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.29.12

Stagecoach site/Indio, California/4.29.12

Sunday, May 13, 2012

If you had been on-site for three weeks, you probably would have a lot of ferris wheel photos too.

Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.28.12

Just a few members of the box office staff taking a photo with a giant... chicken.

(L-R) Isa, Yours Truly and Andrew.

Photo by some girl whose shadow also appears in this photo.

Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.28.12

I've never seen a spot operator quite like that!

And then there's another sunset/palm/ferris wheel shot. Shocker.

Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.28.12

Chris Isaak/Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.28.12

I would take the Stagecoach crowd over the Coachella crowd any day of the week. When people ask me the difference between the two types of festival-goers, I explain it this way:

Coachella : "My daddy is going to kick your ass." : : Stagecoach : "I'm going to kick your ass."

Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.27.12

Friday, May 11, 2012

Great comedian + great bluegrass = Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Go see this show.

Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.28.12

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers/Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.28.12

Yep. That's the photo pit. Hay bales and all.

Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.28.12

Stagecoach art looks shockingly similar to Coachella art.

Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.27.12

A few weeks ago, I was working from our house in La Quinta, California and Jason Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem" shuffled its way into my Shure in-ears. There are songs that for better or for worse, allow you to replay the best moments in your life. Sometimes those moments really are just moments, but the pitch or poetry of a singer's voice, or the particular vibrations of a bass line leave you in that sliver of time. Once a memory is attached to a song, it's rare that another thought will ever supersede the original. Cue my association with the entire Bon Jovi catalogue. The music is ridiculous, but the people and the places I attach to that collection of songs put me in a good place.

But back to Mr. Aldean here. As the song played in California, I remembered just how happy I was sitting on a pontoon boat in the middle of Canadohta Lake in Pennsylvania with my family - family, most certainly including Kira and the Larotonda clan. I stopped working just to listen to the rest of the song. To think about camp fires, baseball on the radio, fishing, stargazing and being with the only people in the world who have been there since the beginning. That those people are still in your life, is pretty incredible.

I immediately emailed Kira after the tune was over, just to say hello and that I missed her. Music was the catalyst for an emotion that inspired an action that created a resolution. Regardless of my summer tour schedule now or in the future, I will not miss our weekend at Canadohta Lake.

Jason Aldean/Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.27.12

Hey! I've seen these this before! Same amusement, different festival.

Stagecoach/Indio, California/4.27.12

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Favorite show at Coachella this year? Snoop and Dre... with or without the Tupac hologram. Eminem, 50 Cent annnnnd my hometown boy Wiz Khalifa all made guest appearances both weekends.

Annnd that's a wrap on the Coachella photos, kids. Next up? Stagecoach!

Snoop Dogg/Coachella/Indio, California/4.22.12

Last two iPhone photos taken at Coachella.

Bottom photo taken from stage left of the main stage.


Coachella art/Indio, California/4.22.12

Monday, May 07, 2012

For Radiohead's set the second weekend, I decided to nix the guest area and head back to the Do Lab, finding myself a nice patch of grass and a cool breeze to enjoy the show. Halfway through the set, a team of people came to take down the strings of balloons that had been sailing about in the wind all day. I wasn't really getting the shots I wanted from a distance, but when they walked over me, it ended up being a pretty cool shot. It's a touch soft, but I still like it.

Coachella/Indio, California/4.21.12

Pyrotechnics and lasers. Thannks, Swedish House Mafia!

Swedish House Mafia/Coachella/Indio, California/4.20.12

Coachella art/Indio, California/4.20.12