Childhood Unplugged

San Clemente Family Photographer-6463

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The Salton Sea, a place I can’t seem to abandon whenever we’re out in the desert; equal parts mystical and enchanting, disgusting and desolate. And different every time we go.

We stopped at a hole-in-the-wall bar / restaurant in Bombay Beach, a place you’re sure to sit shoulder to shoulder with the local crowd. It’s walls adorned with dollar bills, so many in fact that I always think should the place run into financial ruin the money on the wall is sure to pay for another months rent, at least. I’ve heard whispers that Anthony Bourdain ate here once; not that the food is to rave about, it’s really the only option for miles. In any event, the fried chicken and french fries never seem to disappoint. Unless you’re a three-year-old on the verge of the fucking fours and your goal in life is to make every step of life difficult; in-which-case, not even fried deliciousness can contend with a sour mood.

We stepped out with bellies full, minus said three-year-old, the warm on-the-verge-of-summer air wrapping around us like a blanket on a cold night. The trains passing in the distance and the sun setting beyond the horizon. We pulled off the road at a spot we’ve been several times in the past and stumbled upon an abandoned wood boat we had never seen before; the mystery of the Salton Sea proving, as always, to produce more questions than answers.

Given the day prior, which included a trip to the ER, this day was in some way payback for prior suffering. Even if for just a few moments in time; moments where that soon-to-be four-year-old let go of the fact his cowboy boots were soggy (I mean who goes into the pool with their cowboy boots on?) and explored an abandoned ‘pirate ship’ while the trains chugged on and the setting sun said goodnight.

More on our last trip to the desert to come.

Please join me in supporting the other photographers participating in the Childhood Unplugged movement by clicking here to see all our submissions. You can also follow us on instagram (@childhoodunplugged) and be sure to use #childhoodunplugged for a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed.

Childhood Unplugged | The Salton Sea

San Clemente Family Photographer-2233

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Before we dropped Willy off at his meeting he told me, “Just don’t let the boys touch the fish or go in the water”. But within minutes, fish were touched and there wasn’t any winning that battle; pieces of fish bone crunching beneath their sledge covered shoes and falling through the crevices between their fingers. Holding up varying degrees of rotting carcasses, “Mama, is this one okay to pick up?”, proving needless to answer given the fact whatever fish they were inquiring about was already in their little grubby hands. “Van, keep your thumb out of your mouth” the only request I could muster at that point.

The Salton Sea; so beautiful on the eyes, so hard on the nose. This trip, however, proving not so bad on the ol’ sniffer. Not one complaint from the boys, actually, who – in the past – have been turned off by the stench of those rotting carcasses.

They climbed rocks, fell on rocks, made footprints in contaminated mud that made me cringe about the thought of those shoes later having to come off and me, invariably, having to touch them to do so. But as the sun fell and the water turned to glass I opted to rely on a faint hope that I would find some hand sanitizer in the car and with that hope I let go of whatever reservations I had. I suppose that’s what happens when in the presence of beauty. We watched the birds fly overhead, a line of other photographers slowly lining the shoreline and mimicking the arrangement of the flying birds themselves; one evenly spaced, straight line. Reflections of wood posts that used to anchor yachts that have since left for other waters, cleaner waters, mirroring the reflection of the mountains and making it all look like a Salvador Dali painting leaving one to question which end is up. Fish carcasses tossed back into the waters that have discarded them – killed them – breaking the glass-like appearance and sending ripples outward, stillness turned to movement; the silence broken. The color palette of the sky subtly changing.

We made our way back, the nights sky illuminated by what appeared to be a full-moon. The water turned back to glass, silence reigning once again in the wake of the exit of two little boys who did their damnest to return those dead fish to their home in the sea, the Salton Sea; ever beautiful, ever polluted. One of life’s most interesting conundrums. One of my favorite places.

Please join me in supporting the other photographers participating in the Childhood Unplugged movement by clicking here to see all our submissions. You can also follow us on instagram (@childhoodunplugged) and be sure to use #childhoodunplugged for a chance to be featured on our Instagram feed.

The Salton Sea

Some places are just so wonderfully odd that they keep yanking at your soul to return again. And so, I did.
*You can read my post from my last visit
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The Salton Sea

Oh the Salton Sea. There isn’t a place like it, that’s for sure. And any picture of the place only tells you a small sliver of the story, let me tell you. It’s kinda like looking at a picture of a men’s urinal from a dirty truck stop, you just can’t smell the urine and filth. Same same, but different.
In a photo, it looks like one of the most stunning places. Am I right, or am I right? Please allow me to ruin it for you now.
Use your senses: The temperature is 120F / 47C. It feels like you opened the oven door after you had it closed and heating for a couple of hours. The heat consumes you. It’s difficult to breath. Sweat trickles down your back and your dress becomes stuck to the back of your leg with each step you take. Your hair is crunchy, proof you’ve gone between the sweltering heat and the air conditioned car. Oh ya, and the air is completely stagnate. In 2012 the Salton Sea was confirmed as the source of the rotten egg smell in the LA Basin. The LA Basin is 150 miles away from the Salton Sea. Can you imagine how bad a fart would have to smell to travel even a mile? I’m trying to put this stench in perspective, people. I could tell you it smells like sulfur, but it’s worse than that. It’s more like sulfur with rotten egg with rotting corpse. As soon as you step out of your car, you hear the buzzing of a thousand flies. They land on your face and they invade your car. There is no amount of shooing that will stop them. As you walk closer to the water’s edge, you hear crunching only to look down and discover that what appears to be sand is really just mutilated fish bone and with each step you are making more, um, “sand”.
But oh it’s a site to behold, isn’t it?
We stopped in at a local bar in Bombay Beach to beat the heat, enjoyed some cold beer, and watched as the locals swatted flies with their oversized fly swatters. 
I mentioned the Bombay Beach documentary a while back. Here’s the trailer for it. Gotta love any documentary with music by Beirut and Bob Dylan. It was… interesting.

Want to read more about why the Salton Sea is the way it is? This article is one of the best I’ve read.

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