A Study of Light and Death

The Salton Sea, I’ve been fascinated with it since I first heard about it. Created in 1905 by a flood of the Colorado River, it is the largest body of water in California and more salty than the Pacific Ocean. With no outflow the salinity rises by one percent each year which results in massive fish die offs. A briefly booming tourist industry lies rotting in the sun like the fish that line the shores. 

I rented a small car to get out there since my truck was in the shop. Outside of Palm Springs I managed to wreck the car when an 18 wheeler had a blow out and sent his giant steel belted radial spinning into my front bumper at 75mph. I stopped to rip off a few plastic pieces of the car that were dragging and continued on.

I pulled into the town of Bombay Beach just before sunset and set up two time lapse shots of the sun setting through some abandoned salt encrusted structures. After about 45 minutes I needed to pee so I ventured a few hundred feet away to relieve myself in the bushes. I glanced over my shoulder to check on the cameras and a guy who had popped up out of nowhere was trying to quickly remove my camera from the tripod head. I started running toward him and yelling. He acted like he had just discovered some abandoned equipment and put my camera in my hands before I could use my fists on him and disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.

At first I was just happy that I had not lost a rather expensive camera but I was also angry that he must have been watching me waiting for me to turn my back and I briefly considered going to look for him but I was the outsider who had come to this dilapidated village and I should have been more careful. Out here alone, I wished that I had brought a firearm actually.

A little shaken up from the car crash and the attempted robbery, I really wanted a cold beer. There was one place that resembled a bar in Bombay Beach called the Ski Inn. I couldn’t see in any windows but I could hear some obviously intoxicated voices coming from inside. I wondered if I would encounter my attempted robber in there but I took a deep breath and threw open the door.

It was as if the needle had scratched the record and the music had suddenly stopped. Half a dozen crusty old men spun around and starred at me. “Where you from?” they demanded to know. I took the only available bar stool and said “I’m Niles. I’m from Venice.” and ordered a PBR.

I guess I was the most interesting man in town to these guys and they became over-friendly pretty quickly. One of them practically demanded that I accompany him on a tour of the town. Highlights were to include “the place where they smoke the crack”. The old woman bartender looked at me and shook her head at this idea and I stayed firmly planted on my bar stool.

I didn’t have any place to sleep that night and I didn’t want anybody to follow me when I left the Ski Inn so I decided my best plan would be to outdrink these fellows. It took quite a while but they had a big head start and were drinking liquor while I was drinking beer. Eventually they went home and I went back down to the beach where I had nearly been robbed earlier. I slept on the bones of a million dead fish.

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