Mojave Desert, 2016

They named the virus corona because it looks like a crown. Each night I join the rest of the city in dreaming garbled dreams about apexes and plateaus. Like so many others who are non-essential, my radius has been reduced to agoraphobic dimensions: living room to bedroom and back again, sometimes the corner bodega. Before sleep comes tonight, I want to remember space and motion. My thoughts immediately turn to the desert.

The desert stokes my compulsive nature with a promise: Drive a little further, keep racing through nothing and you might see something grand, something that will help you make sense of the world. An airplane graveyard. A tragic ghost town. An abandoned gag shop that sold alien beef jerky during the UFO craze in the summer of ’71. A place in Death Valley where a woman once performed an opera every evening to empty seats. A historic marker where they detonated the first atomic bomb. And so much space there’s nothing to think about except something resembling god.

In the desert I’d drive fast and long because this is a place of land-speed records and shattered sound barriers. Its utter stillness is a counterpoint for human motion. The Great Basin and the Mojave, the Sonoran and Chihuahuan. Desert logic deforms time and space. Soon it’s a quick hundred-mile drive to see a decayed military base or a wild sculpture made by conspiracy theorists and faith-dealers.

I never stopped in the desert, not even while crashed out in budget motels. Nerves still humming from the day’s driving, I’d stay hopped up on sound. The fritzing neon and grumbling ice machines, laugh tracks bleeding through the walls while long-haul trucks sped through the dark.

Tonight I want to find my way back to this sensation.

Spiritualized – Lay Back in the Sun

From Electric Mainline | Dedicated, 1995 | More

A desert-driving classic.

Each night in 2020 I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these times into my memory. Before the world changed completely.