I have been fascinated by the Salton Sea since I was a kid. I grew up 30 miles north of the Sea, and can still remember the pungent odor that wafted northward from the Sea on a hot summer’s day. Every few years, when I am visiting my parents in the Coachella Valley, I make the drive south to visit this aquatic wasteland.
The Salton Sea isn’t actually a sea, but rather a lake that is saltier than the Pacific Ocean. At 376 square miles, it is the largest lake in California. It averages 15 miles wide, 35 miles in length, and is 52 feet at it deepest point.
Although salt lakes have existed, and then evaporated, in this desert region for many years, the present Salton Sea was the result of an engineering project gone wrong in 1905, when workers attempted to divert water from the Colorado River to irrigate land in the Imperial Valley. The Colorado overflowed, breached the structures, changed course, and began to fill the empty salt basin, creating the Salton Sea. Although the Salton Sea would have eventually evaporated on its own, it soon became a depository for agricultural runoff, which replenished the Sea with wastewater.
In the 1950s, tourism and development promoters billed the Salton Sea as a “miracle in the desert”, where one could relax by the water, water-ski, and fish to your heart’s content. Yacht clubs, hotels, and restaurants were built, turning the area into a “Palm Springs with water.”
This desert riviera, however, was short-lived. As salinity and pollution levels began to rise, the tourism industry collapsed. Today, with the exception of a few hardy residents, most of the developments surrounding the Salton Sea have been abandoned. If one visits Salton City, you can drive through entire subdivisions, all perfectly gridded and marked with street signs, that are devoid of any structures. Walking along the sea, you notice that the beaches are not composed of sand, but rather barnacle shells and the skeletal remains of fish, with more decomposing fish deposited on the shore by gentle waves.
If all goes as planned, I’ll be on a 6am flight to Dallas and then hopping a plane to Palm Springs, arriving by late morning (while cheap flights to Los Angeles and Ontario abound, this is one of the occasions where I actually have to get into Palm Springs on time!) so that I can sit down to a lovely Thanksgiving meal with friends and family. The above photo, taken during an early morning hike several years ago, is of Palm Desert and the Coachella Valley, where I grew up and lived until 2000.
– Ate In-N-Out
– Ate a TON of Mexican food. Seriously. A ton.
– Saw a bunch of friends
– Took the Mosin M91/30 out to the desert to shoot a few rounds
– Toured the “wind farm” in the San Gorgonio Pass
– Completely ignored this blog and most e-mails
– Etc, etc.
It was good to be home for an entire week, but it’s back to the grind tomorrow.
I couldn’t go to California for Thanksgiving and not have In-N-Out, could I?
For Saturday’s dinner, we went to Las Casuelas Nuevas with a dozen or so friends and family members. I had a gigantic margarita, freshly made guacamole, my usual beef taco and cheese enchilada dish, and deep-fried ice cream for dessert. Whenever I leave California I feel like I need to go to detox for overdosing on food.
The reason I never write about concerts is because, in general, I suck at reviewing them. I have to write about Coachella, though, so forgive me if this totally sucks or if I use the word “awesome” way too much. Pictures will be up later. I’m liberally sprinkling YouTube and professional photos throughout this post to give you some eye candy.
Day 1 – I’m not drunk, I just haven’t slept
My flight out of DCA left at 6am. I thought it would be quiet and relaxing – I mean, Jesus, who flies to Houston at 6am besides businessmen? Unfortunately, I was inundated with annoying middle schoolers in matching maroon sweatshirts, all of them on a simultaneous caffeine and candy high. I switched planes in Houston and landed in Palm Springs before noon. Kat picked me up and we met up with Lindsey and Danielle at In-N-Out. It’s a tradition that my first meal upon arrival in the Great State of California has to be a double double – been that way since I was a freshman at GW.
Danielle and I headed out to the Empire Polo Fields in Indio (location of Coachella) shortly thereafter. The traffic was a nightmare, compounded by the fact that my hometown had been inundated with idiotic East Coast drivers. (“New Jersey? WTF are you doing here? Hell no we’re not letting you in our lane!”) By the time we got there, the temperature was hovering around a balmy 100 degrees (oh, trust me, it gets much hotter there). Teenagers roamed the fields and scavenged through recycling bins in search of ten empty water bottles, which they could exchange for a full one. Personally, I opted to spend the $2 per bottle.
That night I saw the Arctic Monkeys, Interpol, and Gogol Bordello. The Arctic Monkeys and Interpol were good…nothing to really write home about. Gogol Bordello, however, put on an amazing show. They were playing opposite Bjork, but the crowd was much larger than I expected. Gogol Bordello, if you have never heard of them, is a punk band composed of immigrants from Eastern Europe. A Slavic Flogging Molly, if you will. The lead singer, Eugene Hütz, is an absolute madman who enjoys crowdsurfing on a large drum. Check out the video below:
If you get a chance to see these guys live, jump on it. The music has a Slavic twist to it with an accordion and violin that will have you dancing around like a fool in no time. They were the last band of the night, which was great, because by then I had been up for 24 hours straight with three hours of sleep the night before, and was subsequently staggering around like a drunk without the benefit of actually being drunk ($7 for a Heineken?! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!). Trying to leave the concert was an absolute clusterfuck, as you had thousands of cars trying to get out and no cops directing traffic. It took us TWO hours to get out of the parking lot. WTF?
Day 2 – it’s not hot, you’re just weak
The first band I saw was Jack’s Mannequin, a solo project of Something Corporate’s lead singer Andrew McMahon. Something Corporate, which is now kinda defunct, was one of my favorite bands – nice SoCal rock with some piano thrown in. Jack’s Mannequin’s performance at Coachella was solid, and I loved hearing them perform “Bruised” live (“Vacation’s come and gone too late / There’s so much sun where I’m from”).
Next up was Travis. I had never heard of these guys even though they have apparently been around for quite awhile, but Olga raved about them so I decided to check them out. They were pretty damn good, although I could barely understand a word the lead singer was saying, his Scottish accent was so thick.
Saw the Decemberists next. Gotta love a band that’s kinda named after the boys of 1825, although I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t play 16 Military Wives. In between the Decemberists and Arcade Fire we met up with my friend Kim, who was lucky enough to be covering the concert for WORK. I shoulda been a journalist.
I started listening to Arcade Fire a few months ago at the suggestion of my roommate, Mike, and they put on an amazing show. Definitely a crowd favorite. The final band we saw that night was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There’s not much to say about the Chili Peppers. As expected, they were awesome live. And yeah, they played “Under the Bridge”, with a crowd of 60,000 singing along.
Flea, with RHCP
Day 3 – THE DAY RAGE REUNITES! “What better place than here? What better time than now?”
First up was Kaiser Chiefs. I became quite familiar with these guys while living in London, as it seemed every third song played on the radio was “Oh My God” ( “Oh my god I can’t believe it / I’ve never been this far away from home”). I love Kaiser Chiefs, but they just didn’t sound that good live. Whatev.
Ryan and headed over to the main stage a few hours early in order to get a decent spot for Rage Against the Machine. We had to stand through Crowded House, some Australian band I’ve never heard of. They were alright, I guess…I wouldn’t buy their CD or anything. No idea why Coachella put them so close to RATM, though. Really effin’ idiotic, as the hardcore RATM fans in the front were throwing bottles at Crowded House and chanting “RAGE RAGE RAGE!” I felt kinda sorry for those poor Aussies.
Manu Chao with Radio Bemba Sound System played after Crowded House. Oh…My…God…these guys were amazing. I’ve never heard any of their music before, but I was impressed with their entire setlist. Intense mix of rock, reggae, ska, a few foreign languages thrown in…these guys really blew me away. I had no idea what they were saying, but they kept screaming California, so that’s gotta be something.
FINALLY, the last band of the night, the last band of Coachella 2007, the only band I would fly 3,000 miles to see reunite…RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE.
Ryan and I had a decent view…we were probably about 30 feet in front in front of the soundbooth. I found myself surrounded by half-naked, sweaty men wearing bright orange “Drive out the Bush regime” bandanas, shouting “RAGE RAGE RAGE!” RATM walked on stage and Zack shouted “Good evening, we’re Rage Against the Machine from Los Angeles, California!” The crowd went nuts. SEVEN LONG YEARS WITHOUT RAGE! Abandoned in our time of need! With everything that has been going on these past seven years, we could have had five new, angry albums!
They opened with “Testify“, the Battle of Los Angeles anthem railing against our runaway oil consumption and subsequent military intervention in the Middle East (“Mister anchor assure me / That Baghdad is burning”).
Yeah, kinda like this
All hell broke loose when Morello started on the main riff. The crowd was packed so tightly where we were that I was literally picked off the ground and moved 10 feet left then 10 feet right, then 5 feet front, and 5 feet back – my feet weren’t even touching the ground. It was like some sort of bizarre tug of war using human bodies. The heat was suffocating, and I managed to take a knee and elbow to the head from some crowdsurfer. A few guys were being carried out, all bloodied up. It was freakin’ intense. After the first two songs, I moved back about 15 feet where it wasn’t as packed, and the air was a bit, uh, fresher. A moshpit formed to the left of me, and to my right, three guys climbed on top of the soundbooth, with security following soon thereafter.
That’s gotta hurt
02 “Bulls On Parade”
03 “People Of The Sun”
05 “Bullet In The Head”
06 “Down Rodeo”
07 “Guerrilla Radio”
08 “Renegades Of Funk” (my current ringtone, ooooh yeah)
09 “Calm Like A Bomb”
10 “Sleep Now In The Fire”
11 “Wake Up”
13 “Killing In The Name” (with a little improvisation thrown in “Some of those who hold office are the same that burn crosses.”)
At one point, during “Wake Up”, the crowd cheered loudly as Zack called for the Bush administration to be “hung, and tried, and shot”:
“A good friend of ours said that if the same laws were applied to U.S. Presidents as were applied to the Nazi’s after World War II, then every single one of ’em, every last rich white one of ’em from Truman on would have been hung to death, and shot. And this current administration is no exception. They should be hung, and tried, and shot. As any war criminal should be. But the challenges that we face, they go way beyond administrations. Way beyond elections. Way Beyond every four years of pulling levers. Way beyond that, because this whole rotten system has become so vicious and cruel, that in order to sustain itself, it needs to destroy entire countries, and profit from their reconstruction, in order to survive, and that’s not a system that changes every four years, it’s a system that we have to break down generation after generation after generation after generation after generation. Wake up!”
WARNING: Political rant about one minute in
I was like, whoa, did he just say that? And poor Jimmy Carter, what did he ever do to deserve that fate? And aren’t you supposed to try a person BEFORE hanging and/or shooting them?
The last song of the evening was “Killing in the Name.” It was like seven years of pent up anger exploded at the end, with a crowd of 60,000 screaming “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” over and over.
“Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!”
I was so amped after that set I wanted to put on a bandana and start throwing molotov cocktails at Wal-Mart. The only “raging against the machine” I managed to accomplish that night, however, was pushing my way past a security guard who was yelling “This exit is for wrist bands ONLY!” But that exit was closest to where we had parked, and we were in no mood to walk all the way around the polo fields. Allllll hell can’t stop us now!
The very next morning I was on a plane headed back to DC. Back to reality, working for Big Energy, filling up the 14mpg SUV, and thinking, hmm, business school…maybe I’ll give that a try.
There are very few things I regret not doing, but I have the feeling that if I did not go to this concert I would have really regretted it. I saw one of my favorite bands reunite after a seven year hiatus…and yeah, I’ve got the “Battle of Coachella” shirt to prove it.
We headed out to the canyons past Thousand Palms – public land where you are allowed to target shoot. There wasn’t much in the way of targets, but someone did spray paint a giant blue man on a piece of plywood and place it on the side of the mountain, so it was kinda like shooting at a giant smurf.
My Mosin. It’s a big, heavy gun. Built in the Soviet Union in 1942 during the midst of Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voyna, the Great Patriotic War. A beautiful piece of history, it might have been used by some starving Ivan in the defense of Stalingrad or the capture of Berlin. We’ll never really know.
Taking aim at the giant smurf
I’m gettin’ back to the Fincher family’s Texas roots. I thought that perhaps my aim would improve by wearing Jason’s cowboy hat, but it doesn’t quite work like that. “Lindsay, LEAN into the rifle.” I know, I know. Need more practice.
The Mosin was just as I expected – LOUD (yes, I had ear protection), with a nice kick, but damn that bolt can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. I really had to smack the bolt pretty hard to eject the spent shell casing.
After I went through my box of Winchester 7.62x54r ammo, I tried out the guns that Jason brought along: two shotguns and a Glock handgun.
The shotguns were fun to shoot
First time I ever shot a handgun (bad stance duly noted). I can definitely see why the Glock is such a popular handgun, but I doubt I’ll be buying one in the future. I’ll stick to my $75 Russian military surplus rifles, and maybe a Mauser Kar98k while I’m at it.
I also purchased a Mosin M44 back in November 2005, but haven’t had a chance to disassemble it and clean off all the cosmoline gumming up the parts because I left the gun at my parent’s house in California when I moved to DC.
The M44 with permanently attached bayonet
I had a lot of fun shooting that day, and I’m definitely hooked on the Mosins. I’ve got to find myself a few Mosins and shooting range out here on the east coast. DC has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, though, so I’m not quite sure how I would go about purchasing firearms in Maryland or Virginia (certainly there aren’t any gun stores within DC city limits) when I’m a DC resident. I’m pretty sure I can do that, but prior to do that I have to go down to DC police headquarters and apply for some pain in the ass registration certificate for every firearm I buy. Whatev, maybe I’ll just wait until I move somewhere else.
(Post title is from “Glorified G” by Pearl Jam, of course)
Er, breakfast really. Before heading to the airport, we hit up In-N-Out at 10:30am so I could have a quick fix before I flew back to DC.
The usual: #1 with onions
(Gerald and Betty Ford, BTW, used to frequent this very In-N-Out, god bless ’em.)
My plane was three hours late leaving Palm Springs, so I missed my connecting flight in Chicago and had to overnight there. Thankfully, American Airlines put me up in the Chicago Hilton and gave me vouchers for dinner and breakfast, which I made sure to use up completely so I could stick it to them.
My flight to DC left around 6am. I was totally out of it this morning, but once I got my venti caramel frappacino courtesy of American Airlines, the caffeine started flowing through my veins and I was ready to go. Thank you, Starbucks.
Tomorrow: a picture heavy “fun with firearms” post, as I FINALLY put my Mosin 1891/30 through its paces.