California Dreaming

March 30, 2013  •  Leave a Comment
A surfer strolls in front of the sunset at Santa Monica Beach

I spent March and some of April out in California visiting my beautiful girlfriend, Kelsey.

Kelsey resides in the rambling metropolis of Los Angeles, a thousand square miles of city stretched across a desert basin, knitted together by endless freeways linking snow capped mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

Los Angeles is thrilling and threatening in equal proportions, abundant with places that pique a photographers' interest and sweep you along whether you like it or not.  Much like London, it has gilded opulence sharing the landscape with urban scruff, and there's plenty of colourful characters bringing the place to life.

Kelsey through coloured plexiglass at LACMA, Los Angeles

Kelsey through coloured plexiglass at LACMA, Los Angeles

Kelsey has always assured me there's not much for a tourist in Los Angeles and so one of our first excursions was out of the city and to a desert outpost known as Salvation Mountain.  We joined up with some bike freak kids to party for the weekend.  What followed was a jazzy melee of graffiti paint, jamming bands, and the odd car getting trashed or torched by flamethrower.  Maybe this is normal for California city kids, I have no idea.  "The last free place in America", I heard one of them say.
Get out of the city, trash old cars, drink moonshine

Get out of the city, trash old cars, drink moonshine

Salvation Mountain is in fact an art installation in the middle of the Colorado Desert, and has become something of a cult tourist destination whilst also being home to its own clan of drifters, hobos and burned-out hippies.  Living in trailers, they didn't seem to mind sharing their desert enclave with the bike kids arriving from Los Angeles, San Fransisco and Tahoe.
 
Knicks players leading youngsters through drills as part of an NBA Cares initiative
The bike kids wasted no time in building a minidrome right on the sand from wood and other materials brought in from wherever.  This rickety ride became the centre of fun for the whole weekend with kids pedalling unicycles, bikes and skateboards round and around over its precarious planks.  
 
The bike kids built their own minidrome for cycling on one, two or four wheels

The bike kids built their own minidrome for cycling on one, two or four wheels

On the last night the minidrome was torched, together with pretty much anything else that was flammable and not alive or valuable in any way.  The kids drove the 'shitbox' car into a pre-dug hole in the ground before setting fire to the giant mechanical obelisk.  As it burned hard for a good hour, there was much jeering, singing, laughing and even nude yoga going on around it.  Nobody resisted throwing beer bottles into the vehicular furnace and screaming into the night.  Some kind of f*ck you, maybe.  Nobody around to stop us.  The last free place in America, indeed.
 

The morning after the night before

Anthony Bigalow shakes it down with Carter the dog.
Anthony Bigelow shakes it down with Carter the dog

Back in LA, I was excited to visit Venice, possibly the quintessential Californian beach town image.  I watched sundown over the concrete bowl of the skate park, casting shadows of the riders as they glided past.

Skate park at Venice Beach

Skateboarders silhouette against the setting sun over Venice Beach

I carried on the skate buzz and headed to North Hollywood skate park with my friend and semi pro boarder, Anthony Bigelow.  Anthony showed me how its done and I got him with a borrowed camera and a fisheye.

Anthony Bigelow does it large, North Hollywood Skate Park
Anthony does it large, North Hollywood Skate Park

21.03.2013 Anthony Biglow at Rob Dyrdek's skate park, North Hollywood

We also took a 3 day excursion to Las Vegas, driving through Baker and Barstow and the Mojave Desert along Route 66 before arriving at the crazy town.  We gambled, we romped, we stared at grannies playing the slots at 4am, and Kelsey sang karaoke, but thats all another story.  

Thank you Annie and Anthony for an unforgettable few days.  This is how I remember you guys...

True love, road movie style

True love, road movie style

 


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