The Stupid 365 Project, Day 56: Desert High

November 25th, 2010

Tomorrow I go up to Joshua Tree to try to kick-start PULPED.

Eating Thanksgiving dinner last night felt like a betrayal of Doug and Doug and Doug and Doug, but traditions die hard.  Tomorrow at 10 AM I’m hitting the road to Joshua Tree, which is essentially two hours uphill, into the high, high desert.  Joshua Tree is where Gram Parsons’ stolen body was amateurishly cremated, where there are more Volkswagen vans than anyplace this side of 1969, and where the desert is, well, stony.  In all possible ways.

Back in my misspent youth, I ingested many chemicals, some of them seriously misrepresented, up in the Monument, and no matter how raggedy they were, the day was fine. The place is overpowering; you arrive with your tensions and preoccupations and little niggling worries, and the terrain says,HEY. WHAT ABOUT ME? and there’s no arguing with it.  Joshua Tree is to landscapes what Beethoven’s Ninth is to symphonies.

There are places where quartz crystals come up through the ground.  There are boulders three stories high. There’s a hidden lake, build by cowboys a century ago and now ringed by palms and home to every waterbird within 200 miles.  There are lookouts from which you can literally see all the way to Mexico when the air is clear.  There are caves with petroglyphs.  If Shakespeare had been a desert-dweller, he would have set “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” there.

And, although I’m not comparing myself with Shakespeare,  for some reason I’m setting a lot of books up there. Junior Bender drives up in the middle of the night at the end of LITTLE ELVISES, the second book in that series.  A stand-alone thriller with three heroines but no title (yet) begins there as a woman hikes across the desert to dig up the can into which her recently murdered father dropped a new penny on every one of her twenty-three birthdays. And, more to the point, Joshua Tree is where Madison lives in PULPED, and it’s where Simeon may or may not ultimately meet her if he can learn the secret of leaving Limbo for a short period of time.

I’m once again having postponement issues with writing PULPED, which I don’t understand, because I love Madison and I like the book. I’m hoping that being up there, eating lunch in the Carousel, where Madison eats lunch, shopping for books in the dumpy little used-book store I’m calling The Pack Rat — that, plus a few hours in the Monument every morning — will help me break through the resistance.

I’ll be posting from there until maybe Tuesday or Wednesday — longer if I’m suddenly doing 3500 words per day.  I have a very good feeling about this book, and I don’t want any of my little you can’t do that demons to screw it up.  But no illegal chemicals.  Those days is long past.

8 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 56: Desert High”

  1. Laren Bright Says:

    Have a safe trip and a productive adventure. Sounds like you’re in a good place to re-energize.

  2. fairyhedgehog Says:

    It sounds like an absolutely amazing place.

  3. EverettK Says:

    We’ll be e-Right-behind-you all the way. While high desert (or desert of any kind) is not MY preferred environment (I’m more of a Douglas Fir semi-rain forest kind of guy… but then, I live in western Oregon), but it DOES have a stark beauty all of its own.

    Clear your mind, relax the mental tendons, and let the good times roll…

    We’ll be here, no matter where you are.

  4. Suzanna Says:

    Hi, Tim

    Joshua Tree is a magical place. Have a great trip. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures out there.

  5. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    See, through you I get to see stuff I never will (health issues-boring). Have a safe, productive trip. As Everett said, we’ll be here.

  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, all — I’m here safe and sound and the sky is an impossible blue. It’s apparently been dipping into the 20s at night, but I won’t be out in it.

    For those of you who haven’t been here, you should try to come. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t captivated by it, except for the rare person who’s nature-blind. Woody Allen, for example, wouldn’t appreciate it.

    Lil, I’m here in your stead. will post some pix later.

  7. Bonnie Says:

    When I was in 4th grade we moved from lush, green, Davis, California, to Tucson, Arizona, where my dad got his first teaching job after obtaining his Ph.D. in animal husbandry (don’t say it!). At first I hated it. But the desert grows on you.

    Right now, Tim, I can hear the rain on my roof and drizzling out of the drainpipe outside my bedroom window. For your sake, I hope you get some too. Joshua is not the Arizona-Sonora desert, but I’ll bet it has its own amazing vegetation that smells indescribable in the rain. Though of course it would be your job to describe it; wouldn’t it? 🙂

  8. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Joshua smells amazing, Bonnie, even when it’s dry, but there’s something about the crackle of ozone and wet dust immediately following a desert rain that’s unique. There’s a chance of rain, but that’s all it is, in the next 4-5 days.

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