Friday, January 15, 1999

Death Valley


Moved out of Norma and Clay's on 12/22 exactly three months after arriving in LA and drove to my interim digs at Stephanie's apartment in Culver City. (She is back in Chicago for the holiday). Made myself right at home while working out the details of my new semi-permanent location. It's a good place, nothing fancy but well situated in the heart of things and surrounded by all the modern conveniences. Also a lot gay bars. Best of all I'm just a short walk from Brian's place. It's great to have a friend nearby.

Last thursday I moved out of Stephanie's place, stopped off and picked up my mattress, tied it to the roof and brought it to my new home. After setting up my bed I went over to Home Depot for a few important items (I've been scouring the thrift shops in Hollywood and Culver City trying to outfit my place without going broke, but there are certain things you can only get at HD). Got home fom the depot and was really looking forward to a trial snooze in my new bed...

Then Brian calls, it's New Year's Eve and I've been asking him to keep on the lookout for a party with lots of the cute architect babes in attendance. But it seems all the single ones are out of town. I met many of them at Brian's birthday party, a half dozen attractive, harvard-educated female architects who all work in Santa Monica. (So that's where they keep them.)

Anyway Brian in his inimitable wisdom has decided we should go to Death Valley for New Years. Sounded good to me. He comes over and we grab some pizza, pack and take off for the desert, figuring we'll drive til we get tired and stop off at one of many roadside motels we'll no doubt encounter along the way.

Problem is it's New Year's Eve and the road to Death Valley is the same as the road to Las Vegas and THERE AIN'T NO GODDAMN HOTEL ROOMS! We end up at the Nevada State Line at a cheesy casino where Brian wins $20 at slots and we celebrate by falling asleep in the car in the parking lot.

After a restful one hour's sleep we double back to Baker CA home of the World's Tallest Thermometer (but not the World's Tallest Rectal Thermometer). From Baker we head north to DV, first stopping in the sleepy RV mecca of Tecopa where we have the good fortune of finding a public hot spring. So Bri and I join the old-timers from the RV park across the highway at 7 a.m. on New Year's Day for a soak in the hot springs -- it was fantastic. Afterwards we drove up to Shoshone at the southern entrance to DV and had a hearty breakfast.


Death Valley was incredible, words cannot convey the majesty, serenity, beauty, strangeness, and wonder of this unique place. We stopped at a place called Bad Water the lowest point in the U.S. at 282 feet below sea level. It is in the middle of a ten thousand year old dried up lake bed covered with a layer of white salt that stretches to the horizon in both directions and is bounded on the sides by the most unusually colored and sculpted mountains in the world.

Later we stopped at a place called Golden Canyon and despite (or because of) the fact that we were delerious from too much sun and very little sleep we decided to hike to a lookout called Zabriskie Point (where they filmed the movie of the same name). We made it to ZP then kind of got lost coming back (we decided to try a 'shortcut') but met some fellow wanderers and made it back to the car just in time for an incomparable sunset.

Once again we were too late for the local hotel, but someone suggested we try Lone Pine, a mere 100 miles away. After a needed meal we set off, crossing another mountain range in the dark, but with the brightest full moon I have ever witnessed to guide us. When we came down from the eastern ridge of DV we encountered another dry lake bed and turned north, we could see some spectacular mountains further to the east, their peaks glowing with moonlit snow. We got to the hotel and collapsed.

The next morning we awoke to behold Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous U.S. rising up before us like a mighty jagged god. Lone Pine is the site of many a movie western and the walls of the hotel are covered with movie posters and photos of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Steve McQueen, Roy Rogers and more. We reflected on the fact that the day before we had been in the lowest place in the country and now we faced the highest -- a fitting image for the new year.

We attempted to drive up to the trail head where you can hike up to the summit, but the road was closed from the snow. I made a vow to return to Lone Pine and hike the ten miles from the Whitney Portal (elevation 8365 feet) to the summit (elevation 14,495 feet). There is a trail camp at 12,000 feet where you can spend the night. It will be an intense three day hike. We'll have to wait for the snow to melt first.

We drove home that day and I fell asleep at 8 pm and slept for 12 hours, my first night in my new apartment.

Now I'm ready to start back on the business at hand. Seems like forever since I was working so feverishly to make all those screenplay contacts, but now is a good time to start re-establishing communications and make something happen.

Hope everyone is well and having a fine '99.

p.s. I borrowed Stephanie's copy of Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys and have found it to be the funniest book ever written by a guy about guys. I recommend ot to anyone who knows a guy or who is himself a guy.

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