The road from Las Vegas through the Mojave Desert is long. It is straight, and it is peaceful; one can go over 110 miles per hour in their car through these roads without attracting the attention of so much as a ground squirrel. Not that I would have done this on my trip out to Desert Hot Springs this particular weekend. But it is possible. The roads – I swear they are the ones out of that scene in Forrest Gump where he just runs into the horizon and eventually has to turn back because they appear to lead nowhere. I flew down these roads, but unlike Forrest my Google maps told me they did lead somewhere. So I pressed on.
By the time I had arrived at this place, the desert “casita” according to air b&b, it was darkening. It was getting dark and the heavy locks on the gate and the instructions which I could not pull up on my phone on account of the bad reception and my memory failing made it difficult. This place I finally arrived at after sundown on Friday night; it was totally silent. The thousands of cars pouring into Las Vegas on I-15 in the northbound lanes as I flew the other way were not looking for silence. But as a resident of Vegas, one begins to need this silence to stay sane. The ring of the slots, the music pouring from the clubs, the engines of the jets flying in and out of Mccarran… it makes for a constant drone, one that stays with you even as you lay in bed at night.
These sounds now became the crackle of gravel underneath tires; the chirping of crickets; the clank of metal on metal as the locked clicked and the big gate swung open. These were the new sounds that broke the silence of this Mojave Desert evening. As I arrived, for a moment my mind wondered to the recent prison break in Los Angeles a few days prior and my curious study of a map about where one might go if they where running from the law; they probably wanted silence, too. So I went into the house with a dog and a backpack and a Beretta in my hand and put that out of my mind – because silence and seclusion is good, but it’s also good to have an insurance policy.
The house smelled of old wood and books and gave the sort of comfort that is unique when you know it is the only roof around you for miles. It was simple and small and had a clawfoot tub in the middle of the front yard which had a hose running to it in some attempt at a hot tub I suppose. There was a record player with a bunch of old records: Ella Fitzgerald, Gershwin, the soundtrack to My Fair Lady. Clearly the owner had class or was desperately trying to appear that way. So I put on the Ella and felt truly high class as I cracked open Michener and a bottle of wine; I lit a fire and Abby lay at my feet on the porch as the sun set.
By the time Greg and Veronica arrived that evening it was dark and I’d been through the Ella twice and a few chapters of Michener which were very long chapters and half the bottle of wine and stoked the fire three times. I also found out that you could flip the record to hear more songs. Marvelous. The headlights came down the road so bright and I squinted as they lit up the front of the casita like it were some criminal being interrogated. I hoped it was them because those escapees from Los Angeles still lingered in my mind.
This place was so far from Las Vegas. All those people I’d passed going the other way. The bright lights. The activity. But here: the stars. Millions of tiny bright pinpricks against the darkness. We dragged out the cheap telescope and a camera and tripod through the cactus far into the yard and I showed Greg how to take night time pictures which did not turn out correctly. But the stars put on a show. Just a few hundred miles away, Luxor pierced into the sky with its bright vertical spotlight. But here: God showed His light. Ella sang her songs. The fire burned. I escaped.