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Yahoomans in Paradise — Where the Weird Things Go

Last week in “Yahoomans in Paradise” we went to the Channel Islands National Park. This week we trade the dolphins, the island foxes and the thrill of seeing the largest creature to ever live on Earth (the blue whale) for the scraggly place where the weird things go — the desert.

Most of my friends don’t like the desert. They feel it’s ugly, depressing and uninteresting. As a lover of the waves, cliffs and redwoods of California’s central coast I was surprised when I started really digging the desert also. I love the vistas, the openness, the crazy rock formations, the funky spastic Joshua trees and all the creatures who are scraping out a living here.

Forget about UFOs, atomic testing or Jim Morrison’s desert acid trips. What about this: One time I was hiking alone on the Lost Horse Loop in Joshua Tree National Park with no cell service when my iPhone started playing instrumental music I’d never heard. I took it out of my pocket to find a slideshow playing with pictures of me and a friend and the word “TOGETHER” stamped over the production. (Especially weird because I was just thinking about this friend.) I didn’t create this and I’d never seen it. A call later in the week to Apple cleared everything up. It was explained to me that my iPhone does whatever it goddam well wants to do, including choosing photos (through facial recognition) and music for a slideshow and ringing me up about it when it thinks I should see it, even if I’m in the middle of nowhere. It’s possible that bumps from my car keys played a role too.

Anyway, the point of “Yahoomans in Paradise” is showing people the natural wonders of the LA area and reasons to not be bothered about things like the traffic which is only a four-hour annoyance every day anyway. Very timely, the Oscar-nominated documentary “Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405” shows us there are also other ways of looking at traffic.

But now it’s Sunday morning comin’ down and time to go to church in Joshua Tree National Park. We might start with the Barker Dam watering hole in hopes of seeing the free-roaming Big Horn sheep herd. We have to get here early because by 8:30 am the yahoomans will be climbing all over the rocks and screaming for someone below to take their picture which keeps the sheep away.

Like every inch of the Earth, it’s a human playground. There isn’t anything sacred, mysterious, inherently worthy or “above human” about it. If it has any meaning at all, it because we human Gods give it meaning. We didn’t create it but we own it and that’s as God-like as you can get under capitalism. That’s good enough for kakistocracy work.

The yahoomans aren’t done yet, either. Yahoomans are characterized by always bringing their shit with them — it might be boom boxes on the boulders or simply defacing ancient petroglyphs along the Barker Dam trail.

From the Keys View overlook we can see the otherworldly stillness and metallic sheen of the Salton Sea, the stegosaurus-like humpy San Andreas Fault, Mt. San Jacinto (not pictured) and Mt. San Gorgonio, the highest peak in southern California.

Regarding the Salton Sea, by “otherworldly” I mean human-created craziness involving long-standing theft of the Colorado River by Los Angeles, irrigation canals, silt build-up, industrial and municipal effluent from the Imperial, Coachella and Mexicali valleys, high salinity, enormous algal blooms and high phosphorous content from agricultural runoff from fields, feedlots and fish farms (!). Oftentimes the fish kills in the Salton Sea are in the millions in a single day. It takes a lot of yahooman “artists” to make the Salton Sea look like the alien landscape it does.

A hike to the Lost Palms Oasis goes over a ridgeline and narrows between canyon walls, ending at a jungle on the desert floor — but no visible water.

Climate warming, the lack of water and the demise of the giant ground sloth 13,000 years ago — who spread the Joshua tree seeds in dung — lead scientists to believe that Joshua Tree National Park will be devoid of Joshua trees by 2100. By 2100, God’s most blessed people might be leaving their shining cities on the hill in their RVs and camping in the newly-named Creosote National Park. Rest assured, it will all seem normal and inevitable and they’ll still make time to drop bombs on brown-skinned children thousands of miles away to demonstrate their “greatest political experiment in the history of the world.” This 240-year experiment can be summarized as: letting the wealthiest, greediest, most racist, alienated and violent people in society have their way indefinitely and see what happens. The dearest belief of yahoomans is that capitalism must be preserved even if it destroys the earth.

Whether you’re a lizard, a jack rabbit, a cholla cactus or a possessed artist (Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain, Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum), you have to be fucking tough to live in the desert and be crazy by American standards, i.e., you have to be satisfied with not a whole lot.

Speaking of American standards… As human waste, wasted humans and the waste of humans are all big problems, I close with a sculpture from Noah Purifoy:

Quoth the aforementioned 24-year-old Jim Morrison from 1967’s When the Music’s Over:

What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down

The music’s not over but every day more notes are missing, the timing is off and it’s slowing down.

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Randy Shields can be reached at music2hi4thehumanear@gmail.com. His writings and art are collected at RandyShields.com.

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