The Attitude of Eachother

JOSHUA TREE (Part 1 of 2) “The context”

Posted in Uncategorized by Michael Atallah on May 27, 2009


Originally uploaded by boriscollage

Joshua Tree:

San Clemente. 9:30 am. Saturday.

I woke up early – really early for a Saturday. I had to get myself ready for the drive into the high Yucca Valley Desert. There was some catching up to do with the Joshua Tree Music festival already in motion from the night before. My friend who was already there had called me to make sure I was still going rather than sifting into the typical California style blow-off and go right back to bed. I knew it was risky to set out on Saturday rather than make it for the opening act on Friday. Like an Alaskan salmon I was determined to swim upstream away from the cool 70-degree beach climate into the thick desert heat. There was something up there besides music and a slew of colorful freaks letting go. A different “context” awaited and I had to get there. Lying in bed I noticed that Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove was playing on HBO. I normally leave the television on throughout the night. It was difficult to refrain from watching the tail end of the film, laughing hysterically at Peter Sellers’ performance and George C. Scott’s random outbreaks in the amazingly shot war-room.

10:45 rolled around and I leaped out of bed like a cougar. I wanted to get on the road before any traffic blew out of proportion on the I-15 or the I-10. Two and a half hours of driving was looking over my shoulder and I was committed to take the ride. None of my bags were packed and my camera was on the nightstand staring right at me, almost telling me to get my ass moving. It was hard finding the motivation but before I knew it I was on the dangerously serpentine Ortega highway 73 that connects San Juan Capistrano with Lake Elsinore. I felt it was apt to take that little access route to get myself into a different head space. It’s such a transitory drive through jagged pine coated hills and the green meadows of Cleveland National Forest.
You feel the removal from the South Orange county dimension slowly winding you into the tread ways of the vast Southern Californian inland empire. At the tail end of the canyon pass there is a small outlet one could pull off and rest. I felt the need for a break so I gently veered off the two-lane road and took a moment for myself. Stepping out of my car the air smelled different and the heat crept into my clothes as if it were coming out of floor vents exhausting the big city smack in the middle of July. I stretched and made a few phone calls I promised to return. A coffee shop of some kind sat along side the little turn off. Something you would see out of a Jimmy Stewart film where instead of cars, horses would be tied to the log fences lathing the picnic tables. There was a Scandinavian looking teenaged girl running the counter and a pudgy Native American working the grill. It was an interesting spot to say the least. Recreation bikers gather there creating an iconic row of bikes ranging from Harleys to Duccaties and Kawasaki’s. It was a staging ground for enthusiasts either on their way into or out from the canyon run. They were usually older men in their 40s and 50s taking on a little adrenaline rush excursion through the canyon. I walked inside to have a cup of coffee and noticed the perfect setting for a film. It was quiet with controlled conversation murmuring through the old wood cabin interior. You could smell the history through the lacquer and damp floorboards, more like planks if you ask me. There was even a laconic old man sitting alone reading through the paper. The vibrations were friendly, yet questionable. I made myself comfortable in this environment despite my colorful yellow-blue lotus patterned Hawaiian shirt and white converse shoes. The altitude was evident and my mind felt like it was placed in a leather satchel. I quickly thought about a John Wayne figure. I hate John Wayne by the way. I tried to make conversation with one of the bikers standing at the counter but I could only bring myself to ask for the time. I was still grumpy so I found myself snapping a photograph here and there to relax and unwind. Outside the café I took in the sights off the cliff looking out to the Lake and the dried out brown mouth of the Inland Empire. Irrigation seemed like Irony at this point. An unassuming couple stood next to me taking pictures of the scenery and asked me to snap a photo of them. I happily agreed and then calmly went back into my private repose. I placed a cigarette to my lips and refrained from lighting it. The lake looked like a giant swimming pool surrounded by Post World War 2 development; flat, predictable and telling. Off in the near distance the interstate 15 caged the little world at the bottom of that steep and unforgivable cliff. My eyes peered over to the bikers lined up behind me and then a quick cut back over to the picnic tables where a Mexican couple sat enjoying beer and affection. Deep down it wasn’t as peaceful as it seemed because I thought back to a time before where it was all untouched land. The whole setting of the place felt like it was hanging on for dear life to preserve a simpler time, a time when people could simply look out at nature and feel, even for just a moment, that time stood still and it was all very much so bigger than us. But enough of that I thought, I wasn’t even a quarter of the way there. There was still more road to conquer, and a freak circus somewhere in the middle of the high desert hemisphere.

Jump cut:

I was now driving along the lake. The cliff was behind me up in the removed mountainside fading away in my rear view mirror. There was definitely something missing from the city of Lake Elsinore. You can tell by looking at the near empty parking lots and the taller-than-usual grass for commercial zoning principles. It was clean, that’s for sure, but there was something missing. Something that felt abandoned amidst the sprinkles of common chain stores and authentically vernacular signage. It was like a confused old man who traveled the world and came home to broken dreams and refined taste. I was amazed at how tender my feelings began to emerge, thinking about my father and a simple joy in taking a boat ride around the lake. I was on my way to the high desert, and passing through the town of Lake Elsinore was just another reminder that life has a way of taking shape even in forgotten towns like this one.

Next came the mysterious interstate 15. Northbound for Riverside, then a quick jab onto the 60 and then plugging into the 10 for a clean burn up toward Palm Springs.

My cell phone was running out of Juice and I knew I needed a good battery charge before I entered the lost highway 62 dead into no mans land before settling into the Yucca Valley air pressure system. The only visible place I could see off the highway was a state funded rest stop a few miles down the highway. I took the exit and found it to be a calm scene, plenty of parking and a pastoral range. Only thing missing was some cows grazing about and an old man fixing a rusty Studebaker truck. Scrambling to find an outlet the only one I could find was in the middle of 2 sinks in the men’s room. That didn’t bother me. I just plugged right in and set the phone on top of the soap dispenser. No big deal. I hung around outside the bathroom fixing my eyes onto a long Cadillac parked under a tree. There was no one near it as it sat collecting soot from the tree.



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