“The book American Gods wishes it was.” --Despina Durand

Thursday, May 27, 2021

ZIGZAGGING TO LAS VEGAS AND BEYOND

 


The news was full of protests as we got up early for a gonzo run from Vacaville to Las Vegas, past the rice paddies of Sacramento, into Gold Rush country, into the Sierras, past lakes, into snow, the Yuba River, and yes, Donner Pass, where there’s now a ski area.



And then, Reno, into Nevada, past a gigantic Barnes & Noble distribution center in the middle of nowhere. We barely had time to contemplate why when we were in Carson City.



The Prius said it needed oil, so we searched for a Jiffy Lube, but couldn’t find one.



Then we zagged back into California, but did stops at Mono Lake and Panum Crater, then it was a zig back into Nevada along the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.



Soon we came upon Tonapah, home of the famous Clown Motel, where bikers are welcome.



And it’s right next to an authentic Wild West graveyard. The entire town looked like it was designed by Stephen King, and would be the perfect location for a horror film, though the only place to eat seems to be the Burger King.


After more wide open spaces populated by wild donkeys, and towns that were like low-rent versions of Tonapah, near Beatty, we came across the battered sign from the abandoned Angel’s Ladies Brothel, next to which was a crashed plane, stripped of its engines and covered in graffiti.



I can’t help but imagine the scenario:


“Sir, I’m afraid we’re out of gas.”


“There’s an extra hundred in it if you put us down within walking distance of the whorehouse!”



Soon we made our way through the post-Apocalyptic squalor of the desert to Las Vegas’ grotesque caricature of the American Dream, to a chunk of its own new, improved variant of suburban sprawl spewing out of ever-growing, cancerous freeways. Technically, it’s called Henderson, and Mike has a house in an eco-friendly section called Green Valley Ranch where the neighborhood association spends a lot of money on replacing flowers, where we finally found a Jiffy Lube and got the Prius its self-suggested oil change. 




“This thing is basically one big battery,” said the woman in charge while a homeless guy did a non-stop interpretive dance and conversation with invisible personages.



The manicured theme park look eventually gives way to a ticky-tacky dystopian overgrowth that thins out into desert and the spectacular geology of Red Rock Canyon, where we did a pit stop at a scenic view area. Emily caught a guy taking a selfie in the gender neutral restroom, where there was political graffiti disputing the recent election.



Back outside, a young man on a bicycle screamed “THIS IS AMERICA!” in disapproval of our masks. Most of the other people there were modern day, middle-class motorcyclists.



The trail around Calico Hill is great!



Then we went back to Vegas to the Art District with its many murals, antique and thrift stores, and bohemian atmosphere. We bought some cool clothes. A lady in one of the stores told me, “You’re really rocking the bandido look.”



The next day, as we left Vegas, I saw another Pinches Tacos. Later I looked it up. It’s a chain.



Back through the desert, on I-15, there were a lot of billboards for something called Alien Fresh Jerky. I figured we must have been close to Area 51.



Near Whisky Pete’s and Buffalo Bill’s Casinos, lighthouse-like light concentrators glowed and towered over solar collector fields. Apparently, these energy farms are raising the temperature, changing the climate. Somebody needs to work on collectors that absorb sunlight without kicking out a lot of waste energy . . .



Finally, in Baker, we found Alien Fresh Jerky. It’s a clever tourist trap where you can actually buy the touted jerky--no claims that it is made of any kind of aliens--and other wacky trinkets and snacks amid kitschy sci-fi decor. You want photo ops? 



And there was no sign of the “excellent seafood” or “landcrab” mentioned in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.



Once again, Nevada is surpassing Hunter S. Thompson’s wildest hallucinations.



There are abandoned motels and other empty, dilapidated structures all over this desert. Not just ghost towns. Nevada is either frenzied artificial economics or closed and disintegrating in the sun.



We took Kelbaker Road through the Mojave Desert Preserve. The naked desert in all its glory.



We got home after Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts. Things were oddly calm after that.


Friday, May 21, 2021

CHICANONAUTICA EN EL RADIO GARDEN


Chicanonautica listens to the radio, at La Bloga.


In the Radio Garden:



On the air:



On line:



And at KUVO, where they play this a lot on Sundays:


Thursday, May 13, 2021

IMPRESSIONS OF POST-TRUMP CALIFORNIA


Emily's brother Mike had to go to California on business, so he invited us on another road trip. We've been doing a lot of road tripping lately. Maybe it's addicting.


The sun was going down when he picked us up in his Prius Hybrid. Soon we were heading westward into an interstellar blackness. We arrived in Barstow after midnight.


In the morning, Barstow seemed deserted in a post-Apocalyptic manner. We got coffee at the same Panera we did last time we were in town. I already had stains on my pants and T-shirt as we got back on the road.


 
Things got less ghost towny as we sped deeper into California, and my non-decaffeinated (they didn’t have decaf, as is often the case in the outback) Americano did its legal psychoactive number on my brain. Everything seemed futuristic, another brave, new world.


Soon we went past Edwards Air Force Base, and the Neil Armstrong Space Research Center.


They are near a helluvalot of modern windmills--Don Quixote's worse nightmare updated for our times.



Then the desert filled up with more airliners than I’d thought could reasonably exist. A sign said it was the Mojave Air and Spaceport. Perhaps, hidden among all those planes, is something capable of achieving orbit.


We stopped at Francisco’s Fruits in Filmore. It was festooned with murals we just had to photograph. We got some of the fresh edibles, and I grabbed a bottle of habanero hot sauce, and some “Chili y Limon” peanuts.



Santa Paula, where my Hogan grandparents lived back in the Sixties, was unrecognizable. Change keeps running amok. That’s the way it is in California.


Amid the “serious treeage” (as Mike put it) of Ventura we discovered that three thrift stores he wanted to show us were closed. Another pandemic phenomenon. “They just open when they show up,” we were told. Downtown was closed off to cars and converted for masked shopping and outdoor street dining. Adjustments have been made.



Santa Barbara is gorgeous, a lush, Mediterranean-ish earthly paradise for those who can afford it. The California Dream incarnate.


We took lots of photos at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History--they had lots of dinosaur statues, some of which moved, and other wonders. 



There were lots of WE BELIEVE BLACK LIVES MATTER, LOVE IS LOVE, WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS, SCIENCE IS REAL, WATER IS LIFE, INJUSTICE ANYWHERE IS A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE signs on expensive houses in the twisty hills. Not to mention the occasional estate sale.



We had dinner on the patio of a seafood place with relatives as the breeze from the ocean cooled everything down.


Beyond the Chuma Reservation it suddenly looked like the African veldt, blending into wine country.


We stayed at the La Quinta in Paso Robles AKA El Paso de Robles (The Pass of the Oaks in English.)

 

The marine layer was lifting as we heard news of another mass shooting. I had a bear claw from DK’s Donuts.



Downtown Salinas was also retrofitted for the new reality. In a huge antique mall, I found a book: Explorations into Chaokia Archaeology: Bulletin 7 Illinois Archaeological Survey. Realities come and go.



We passed a cannabis field on the way to Monterey, near Carmel, where Clint Eastwood was once mayor. In Carmel, we went to upscale thrift stores. I found The Mysteries of Ancient South America by Harold T. Wilkins.

 


Then it was across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco for the business reason for the trip: Mike had to deliver a large, combination coffeetable/drum to a client. The guy’s apartment was on a steep hill, as is most of SF, and next to a huge TV broadcast tower that penetrated the overhead clouds. This city is always something different.



We spent the night in Petaluma, at a Quality Inn. Tried to call El Ranchito for food, but it rang and rang, and no answer. Finally went there, and found the place to be doing fantastic business that had spilled over into their parking lot. They had a DJ blasting loud Neo-Latinoid dance music so we had to scream our order. “We’re too busy to answer the phone,” informed an employee. Everyone was masked, but social distancing was collapsing under the crush. The tacos, beans, and rice were good, though.



Next morning it was quiet in Petaluma, except for the sounds of other motel guests getting up, distant traffic, and nearby roosters. I wondered about the Post-COVID-19 world. What places will still be in business? What will thrive?



Then we got news of still another police shooting, and more protests. When we got back on the road, flags were at half-staff.  Whither goest thou, America? And all that jazz . . .



Got our on-the-run breakfast at the Donut Den, that also serves Chinese food.



Under the cover of the marine layer, we made our way through Coatati and farmland to Sebastopol, that is brimming over with folk arty stuff. Robots and other weirdness in the streets.

 


Folks were demonstrating in support of Black Lives Matter. The place has character.



Santa Rosa, the birthplace of Charles Schulz, has statues of Peanuts characters everywhere. 



There’s also a pandemic masked shopping area with a lot of fun stuff, but nowhere to go to the bathroom. Three cheers to Dan Taylor’s Omelette Express, that lets visitors use theirs if you ask nicely, like we did. Emily did buy some coffee. The food looked and smelled great, so we’ll have to try it next time we’re in town.



Then it was wine country again.


There are a lot of Mexican food joints in Sonoma. And another pro-Black Lives Matter demonstration in Napa.


We ended up in a Motel 6 in Vacaville. My Panda Express fortune cookie said: STAY CALM THROUGH CHAOS.


Friday, May 7, 2021

CHICANONAUTICA PERSISTS WITH QUIJOTE



Chicanonautica finally gets around to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, at La Bloga:


El Quixote rides again:




His spirit became the vaquero and charro in el Mundo Nuevo:




Which became the mythic Americano cowboy:



And the mutations keep on coming: