Wednesday, February 22, 2012


There's a famous scene at the very end of the 1980's film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' novel Less Than Zero that has always encapsulated the California desert for me.

Jarred by the visually raw and graphic scenes that have come just before it, the audience is seemingly presented with a welcome break in the action and now sees an aerial shot of a vintage red convertible winding it's way back to LA from Palm Springs on a deserted back road, through a field of wind turbines.

With it's filtered, early morning sunlight and the lone image of that shiny red car carrying three lifelong friends home, it's a scene that is at once hopeful as it is foreboding. In it, the desert almost becomes another character, fashioned for sole purpose of driving home the consequences of the story's characters.

The hazy sun seems to signify the smoke clearing. The long and winding road through the battered desert landscape now stands far in the background, while the spinning turbine blades continue to imply danger. And then, sheer solitude settles in, as the audience learns more and the camera pans around the car and back out into the horizon.

I consider it one of my favorite places in the world, but California's low desert has always been a bit spooky and melancholy to me. As we often drive the Coachella Valley into Palm Springs, I find myself growing quiet, almost solemn as I stare out the car window and into its vastness. That movie scene probably has something to do with it.

This past weekend, The Mister and I awoke to sunny blue skies and borrowed his mom's convertible for a little road trip out to Palm Springs. On our way back home, we took a detour out to Desert Hot Springs so I could stop in and peruse the vintage finds at a little gem of a store called Gypsyland (I scored by the way!). The Mister lives by GPS and somehow our shortcut back to the freeway put us out onto an isolated stretch of backroad we've never seen, nor heard of. And how fortuitous. It's called Dillon Road.

Weary from our day of deal hunting, I was finally seceding to my heavy eyelids.

"Open your eyes and look up, " he said with a nudge.

I threw my head back to find us traveling beneath those wind turbines we'd until now, just viewed from a distance, their blades cutting purposefully through that hazy desert sunlight.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing and jumped out to snap some shots. The sheer magnitude of each tower was exhilarating.  I jumped around laughing and yelling out into the desert as he watched smiling from behind the wheel. I nearly didn't want to get back in the car it felt so good.

It's amazing how getting up close and personal can bring new meaning to something you've only viewed from a distance.

Suddenly, it all no longer seems so scary.

* All images taken by Holtwood Hipster


elissae said...

Those ominous turbines have the same affect on me when I travel up to the bay. While the environment of the green lush rolling hills is totally different, somehow I get the same sense of melancholia mixed with excitement.
Sometimes I think its my disdain for Man's ability to try to dominate over savage nature. But then I think how amazing it is that we can harvest forces greater than us help society and it fills me up with wonder again. Other times I anthropomorphize the turbines, viewing them as lonesome individuals in a crowd that never stop in the hustle and bustle to acknowledge their neighbor that is some similar to them in so many ways. Then suddenly I see them as fierce group working together in well-oiled harmony as the whole is greater than the sum of their parts.
Ultimately I see them for their aesthetic beauty--clean lines reaching to the sky in juxtaposition with the sprawling landscape in which they are set. The light of the day casting different shadows each time I pass through makes me notice the fine details of the land, reminding me to appreciate what I may have overlooked before. And its this interpretation that makes me giddy each time I drive to the desert or north. Its like returning to the gardens of a favorite museum to see one of my favorite works by George Rickey or making a pilgrimage to a specific site to sit in awe of the collaborative work of The Powers that Be and Christo/Turrell/Smithson.
How exciting that you got to see them from a new vantage point! After all isn't it really about how we choose to see the world. A one sided perspective never reveals the truth. And truth IS beauty.
I see a road trip in our future....

Erin | Holtwood Hipster said...


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