The Salton Sea:

“Thousands of Californians and persons from all over the country already own property, and homes are beginning to dot the land, wide and airy with a distinctive kind of style designed for maximum enjoyment and a wonderful kind of life. – 1967 promotional film.

40 years ago the towns in the photos were a booming resort that threatened to rival Palm Springs just to the north. Salton City was picked to be one of California’s major cities by the year 2000. But once the year 2000 rolled around 3 decades later, Salton City was long abandoned, and what remains is some of the bleakest, most desolate landscape in America. Everything about it spells disaster, defeat, abandonment…at least from man’s perspective, because nature always wins, even if it isn’t always in the prettiest way.

In an article appearing in the Los Angeles Times April 17, 1966, Salton City was chosen by a group of planners, architects, administrative officers, politicians, professors and assorted thinkers as one of the 24 major cities in Southern California in the year 2000.

There is no greater American heritage than the right to outdoor living…here, where the air is incredible and the sun is warm.

There’s too much to write about the Salton Sea: its accidental origins tied in with the beginnings of the Imperial Valley, greedy speculators, engineering fuck-ups creating both an ecological disaster and, simultaneously, a vital part of the ecosystem (because nature is much more resilient and adaptable than man, most probably because nature is not greedy, delusional or prone to engage in futile endeavors out of pride).

If you listen to the old promotional films for the place you’ll hear an upbeat assessment of life in America, optimistic predictions made in the year 1967 for life in the year 2000, predictions that honestly weren’t all that far fetched, none of which came true. Perhaps the problem is our planning might be Utopian, but we cut corners in the execution because we’re cheap and greedy and filled with hubris. If nothing’s built to last and we build a Utopia, it stands to reason that Utopia has at best a 10 year life span…and this new millennium is the millennium of aftermath, of what we’re left with after a century of naive arrogance, poor execution and seldom finished bad ideas.

“There is no greater American heritage than the right to outdoor living…” sounds very strange in the year 2008, with tent cities under the bridges downtown, and people living their entire lives in back alleys and cardboard boxes.

I am fascinated by abandoned places. I think my fascination it might have to do with the fact that once they’ve been abandoned the odds are no one is ever comin’ back. And so they are sanctuaries. Brutal & bleak sanctuaries, but sanctuaries nonetheless.