Earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, drought, the longest commutes and greatest traffic jams, unimaginable criminal wealth and sprawling tent cities, addiction normalized en masse, bubbles in land, art, butts and busts, botoxed sisters from another planet, ever-increasing outrageous rents and 800-square-foot fixer-uppers that cost a million bucks — why would anybody want to live in Los Angeles? Simple:
A Saturday morning might start with a very affordable boat ride to the Channel Islands National Park where we could be in the midst of a “megapod” of 3,000 dolphins, followed up by a blue whale sighting.
Once on Santa Cruz Island we can hike, kayak and camp. Birders come from all over the world to see the island scrub jay who only dwells here.
The island foxes are products of insular dwarfism and, because they have no natural predators, are not afraid of humans.
On a guided hike, the young female naturalist can’t come out and say, “We’re now walking on the ground of various genocides” or “Human beings are motherfucking evil.” But she drops little bread crumbs along the trail:
Ranchers “displaced” the Chumash and Tongva people, who were here for 13,000 years, to make room for cows, pigs and sheep who went on to devastate many of the native species. The “invasive” species themselves have been victims of mass extermination campaigns by the Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service including the slaughter of 20,000 feral pigs in the early 1990s. Rapacious hunting by white devil’s led to the local extermination of sea otters.
DDT eradicated the bald eagles who primarily fed on fish, opening a vacuum for golden eagles who primarily fed on the feral pigs and, when the pigs were exterminated, the golden eagles turned their attention to the island fox, nearly leading to the foxes extinction…
I can’t remember all the invasive pathogens, plants and insects that she said humans had introduced, sometimes in order to mitigate against other previous human-caused problems. It’s been one long chain of folly and revolving genocides, most often set in motion by animal agriculture. I was reminded of Socrates, quoted in Plato’s Dialogues, concerning where nomadic herding always led: war.
When we get back to the mainland there are sea anemones and sea slugs in tide pools and the sunset.
On Sunday, we can go to the desert. Most of my friends don’t like the desert. They feel it’s ugly, depressing and uninteresting. As a lover of the waves, cliffs and redwoods of California’s central coast I was surprised when I started really digging the desert also. I love the vistas, the openness, the crazy rock formations, the funky spastic Joshua trees and all the creatures who are scraping out a living here.
Forget about UFOs, atomic testing or Jim Morrison’s desert acid trips. What about this: One time I was hiking alone on the Lost Horse Loop in Joshua Tree National Park with no cell service when my iPhone started playing instrumental music I’d never heard. I took it out of my pocket to find a slideshow playing with pictures of me and a friend and the word “TOGETHER” stamped over the production. (Especially weird because I was just thinking about this friend.) I didn’t create this and I’d never seen it.
A call later in the week to Apple cleared everything up. It was explained to me that my iPhone does whatever it goddam well wants to do, including choosing photos (through facial recognition) and music for a slideshow and ringing me up about it when it thinks I should see it, even if I’m in the middle of nowhere. It’s possible that bumps from my car keys played a role too.
Anyway, the point of “Yahoomans in Paradise” is showing people the natural wonders of the LA area and reasons to not be bothered about things like the traffic -- which is only a four-hour annoyance every day anyway. Very timely, the Oscar-nominated documentary “Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405” shows us there are also other ways of looking at traffic.
Before spending the day in Joshua Tree National Park, we might first get some religion at Leonard Knight’s (1931-2014) Salvation Mountain, “north of Calipatria, northeast of Niland near Slab City, and several miles from the Salton Sea,” as Wikipedia says, instead of the perfectly evocative “bumfuck America.”
But now it’s time to go to church in Joshua Tree National Park. We might start with the Barker Dam watering hole in hopes of seeing the free-roaming bighorn sheep herd. We have to get here early because by 8:30 am the yahoomans will be climbing all over the rocks and screaming for someone below to take their picture which keeps the sheep away.
Like every inch of the Earth, it’s a human playground. There isn’t anything sacred, mysterious, inherently worthy or “above human” about it. If it has any meaning at all, it’s because we human Gods give it meaning. We didn’t create it but we own it and that’s as God-like as you can get under capitalism. That’s good enough for kakistocracy work.
The yahoomans aren’t done yet, either. Yahoomans are characterized by always bringing their shit with them — it might be boomboxes on the boulders or simply defacing ancient petroglyphs along the Barker Dam Trail.
From the Keys View Overlook we can see the otherworldly stillness and metallic sheen of the Salton Sea, the stegosaurus-like humpy San Andreas Fault, Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio, the highest peak in southern California.
Regarding the Salton Sea, by “otherworldly” I mean human-created craziness involving long-standing theft of the Colorado River by Los Angeles, irrigation canals, silt build-up, industrial and municipal effluent from the Imperial, Coachella and Mexicali valleys, high salinity, enormous algal blooms, and high phosphorus content from agricultural runoff from fields, feedlots and fish farms (!). Oftentimes the fish kills in the Salton Sea are in the millions in a single day. It takes a lot of yahooman “artists” to make the Salton Sea look like an alien landscape.
A hike to the Lost Palms Oasis goes over a ridgeline and narrows between canyon walls, ending at a jungle on the desert floor — but no visible water.
Climate warming, the lack of water and the demise of the giant ground sloth 13,000 years ago — who spread the Joshua tree seeds in dung — lead scientists to believe that Joshua Tree National Park will be devoid of Joshua trees by 2100. By 2100, God’s most blessed people might be leaving their shining cities on the hill in their RVs and camping in the newly-named Creosote National Park.
Rest assured, it will all seem normal and inevitable and they’ll still make time to drop bombs on brown-skinned children thousands of miles away to demonstrate their “greatest political experiment in the history of the world.” This 240-year experiment can be summarized as: letting the wealthiest, greediest, most racist, alienated and violent people in society have their way indefinitely -- and hope for the best. The dearest belief of yahoomans is that capitalism must be preserved even if it destroys the earth.
Whether you’re a lizard, a jack rabbit, a cholla cactus or a possessed artist (Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain, Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum), you have to be tough to live in the desert and be crazy by American standards, i.e., you have to be satisfied with not a whole lot.
Speaking of American standards… As human waste, wasted humans and the waste of humans are all big problems, I close with a sculpture from Noah Purifoy:
At the end of the day, the best artist (nature) gives us one more thrill before painting us into sleep:
published 2/16/2018 and 2/27/2018 counterpunch.org