Went shooting over at the El Mirage event this September for an article I am putting together for Lightning Magazine.   The Southern California Timing Association is the sponsor of the world's fastest speed trials.  El Mirage dry lake bed has been home to the Land Speed Racing for more than half a century.  Back when Land Speed Racing was young, a group of men that had been racing on the dry lakes for several years, decided to incorporate and create a new racing organization that would enforce safety procedures and promote the sport.  This year, the SCTA is celebrating it's 61st year of LSR activites at the El Mirage dry lake bed.

The Categories are as follows:

Cars: Special construction, Vintage, Classic, Modified, Production, Diesel Trucks

Motorcycles: Designated Frame Class, Designated Engine Class



Went shooting over at the King of Hammers in Johnson Valley, CA in February for Lightning.  That scene is nuts.  We are talking $100,000 rock crawlers racing through the desert and then climbing up steep valleys over boulders larger than their front end.  Excited to sift through the photos and write the story.

Headed out way of Giant Rock for a shoot for Lightning Magazine's Cover Photo.  Was epic shooting and dirtbiking out in this wide open field.  

 

Punk in the New Age means something completely different than it used to.  Punk spirit expresses itself from an energy, a sort of visceral expression, lifted from the edge of our skin.  These days punk doesn't mean punk anymore.  Musicians and artists are giving their talents and energy away for free in trade for a pair of shoes.  Empowerment is something internal and deep.  I created Lightning along with co-founder Seth Olinsky of Cy Dune to deal with this new world view and it has really worked in terms of discussing those issues.  There are some identities and real world growing pains, that will be intriguing to watch and see how they form.  But there is no doubt that from self empowerment springs energy.

Working from your desk and thinking about these things is very gratifying, but still somewhat intellectual.  I've been working on pushing the limits; my own limits, others limits, societal limits, the boundaries of our humanity.  Perhaps like investigating into super athletes, or pushing my own boundaries.  

John Young of the Kamana program, developed a concept called 2 minute edge experiences.  This is a very proactive way to work toward these limits.  Although, sometimes just biting the bullet and diving in is perhaps an equally intriguing perspective.  

Recently a subject on the docket, tracing back to a conversation with a fellow musician/writer/thinker friend, Scott Pink Mountain, has been on the relevance and irrelevance of Gen X.  I am intrigued to watch this play out, as the pendulum swings back toward printed magazines, self expression through art, and the redefinitions of punk.  

What it takes to be punk these days, has new definitions, being redefined in the too punk to be punk, and an older more steeped sentiment.  

The train was moving quickly, not too quickly, however fast enough that you regretted the land and people you were missing as it strained south towards it's destination.  I think we were running frightened-ly from the European parties, beach combing, cat tranquilizer, spiritual predators that we had found by accident searching for Russel who claiming he was Krishna and in search of his long lost daughter - which was actually true.  Nonetheless, it didn't keep him from avoiding his own style adventure, come in as a peace-lover and leave the whole place a mess, in turmoil, turned upside down with a heavy wake.  In fact when we asked the literally god-forsaken hippies if they knew him, it only seemed to alienate us more than we had already personally built a fortress of confusion, frustration and distrust/ or better said, distaste for the sand we had set foot on.  At least the motorbike ride out to the old banyan tree and Hindu stronghold was a peaceful ride warranting a stop by the boatyard and meeting the man who could climb the banyan without his hands, who spoke only his native tongue, but smiled in a way as to communicate enough camaraderie as to express you weren't a bother. 

So, relieved and moving - almost synonymous with this trip in hindsight.  Actually at the time we knew it as well.  There we were sitting across from each other in leather blue benches, the window slid open - I facing forward so the wind was hitting me across the face and dueling with my sensual take of the green green jungle just out of reac.  We passed many people living under highways and train tracks, with houses made of sticks and mud - painted bright colors, with a small fire ring outside.  Children playing with small sticks and in clothing tarnished the color of mud.  We watched agricultural plots pass - what felt endlessly -rice to feed us.  And then the jungle again.  I wondered about how much more we could eat from the jungle.  But no one else seemed too concerned.  I thought of the red and blue mattresses on the ground made of coir as we passed the coconut trees and the barefoot women carrying baskets of fruit  The train was rather empty and the sun was on the set.

After an assault of the senses and a good long passing of the jungle, we began to feel like we were reaching a really remote area - a place hidden away - such a large place and still so populated - a very modern world will make you worry and then you hit a stride like that and you feel like maybe you should do something about it.  Without a doubt, it wasn't telepathic.  You'd have felt it too - we both knew it was time to jump ship - so we set about to grab our things and prepare for the next stop - whenever that was - at that speed there was no jumping.

As the train slowed, there was actually a very large and in a way not compelling - in the sense that we were trying to escape - set of temples.  One that felt very old, stacks of floors atop floors built of ornate stone carving - that if you weren't ignorant and blasted by the story of the evil poachers you might believe was ivory.  The other temple to an American eye would look the likes of Disney, Korean, or Vietnamese - but actually were the new Hindu temples - a statue of a 40 foot tall brightly colored Shiva atop a hill.

We carried our bags into town and of course got many eyes.  We were offered pan and betel nut and some red stuff the locals smoke.  We were ready to move and not looking for friends at the moment so we declined.  We took rooms at a hotel intended for Hindu pilgrimage and took a long walk north along the coast, delighted at the sight of women swimming in their Sari's in the indian ocean.

We followed a path through a small Muslim neighborhood of row houses connected, with many thirteen year old wives rushing about along the still setting sun and streets.

 

A path led into the jungle and I of course could not resist the hope to meander West to catch the sunset over the Indian Ocean.  As we crossed next to an old marine house - there on display was a whale skeleton gleaming among the gorgeous beach miraculously left there for everyone's dismay and pleasure.  Standing next to an animal's bones four times the size of you and know you are one of many is one of the most wonderful feelings left.  You revel in it.

4 young boys were there riding their bike - they told us "Big Fish" and continued with us along the beach.  I was scanning an area, so we could just bed down for the night against the jungle hidden beach.  

After a while and seemingly all of a sudden - just before sunset the boys took off running, which was a relief.  With them biking down the sand in something of a hurry, we were now at peace.  We spread out  faced west toward the sounds of the surf rolling in, the jungle to our backs and the setting sun onto the water.

We threw off our sarongs and traveling shoes and swam as American's do - in our swimsuits- running screaming and ecstatic at our first taste of the warm Indian Ocean - delighting in the seclusion and secret beach.  This is a repeated quest and only those of you who have found such a place hidden from the rest of the world can share in the pure emotion of the salt water, the surf, the jungle and the natural clean ruggedness.

As the night took the sun, no bait was needed as we both were still very excited and high on the change of plans and the excitement of when everyone is game to fly with the wind.  

We walked south along the water until we reached the river that we had crossed to the there.  Unfortunately, we learned what those boys had left in a hurry for - the river had risen - we should of known as we watched the tide roll in.  Well i didn't care I was happy to sleep under the moon.  My friend was already yelling "help, help, can you help us?"  

I was on the floor laughing, who are you yelling to in the middle of the dark?  But all my laughing was futile, she was seriously scared.

I recommended swimming to no avail, which was good, because I had my recorder that I didn't want to sacrifice.  I was contemplating a raft.  A candle light approached from a distance and made it's way down to the water.  By the time it reached the water - there were two candles, a man, a woman and a third person.  They were walking into the river.  The woman stayed at the bank as the candles floated in the air above their heads, they came across took our hands and while I was not afraid - how do you resist the invitation and such a gesture - we crossed the river, flooded up to our chest and shoulders and then across - sand on our feet and drenched in happiness and mystified.  We knew we made the right decision before we could properly say thank you to those mysterious and beautiful souls were gone - except deep in our hearts and memories forever moved.

We wandered the rest of the night with what felt like the water gods protecting us from any harm and only leading us to more miraculous adventures.

We ended up at an upper class midnight children's talent show in an outdoor proscenium - build of wood and weathered by monsoon with an overhang where 50 chairs were set for adoring parents.  We slipped in during the Hindi pop techno blaring and sat back to watch some of the most foreign dancing I had ever seen - obscure jerking motions to off beat measures.  We were quickly escorted up front where we laid on the ground with some of the parents watching the children make fun of western fashion shows traipsing down a catwalk dressed in burlap sacks.  All was memory.

Occasionally, I will head out for a surf session under the full moon.  My favorite surf session is at sunset when the brilliant hues of last light reflect on the water.  At nighttime, there is this very sensual aspect to surfing.  You are out there alone in the quiet and dark ocean.  Sometimes it's like you can't even see the waves.  My friend Pedro grabbed this shot of me catching this wave.  I really love how you can see my board and the moon reflection on the wave and you can't see my silhouette above the wave.  That gives you the scale.  Was a really beautiful night out in California.

 

Photo: Pedro Avila Cross

While engineering a record in Cape Coast, Ghana, for the drum group AFI, we got the chance to bail north to an animal sanctuary.   After our vehicle broke down outside of a mud village north of Kumasi, we wandered through the village.  We were told the local greeting was Deswa.  So we wandered through the candle lit mud village.  Thatched roofs, guinnea foul behind wooden fences, women carrying water on their heads, no modern amenity in sight.  Deswa we greeted the chief and the many others of the town.  The response (Hello) was NAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!

Finally, we got our vehicle fixed and made it to the preserve.  We tracked the elephants through the brush.  I had the good fortune to stand in an elephant track.  

Sneaking in some night rides over the course of the last year, while working on installations and some new recordings out in the Mojave.  Have found some vast quiet backcountry while cruising on our Vintage Enduro's.     It's not the most sensible to ride vintage out back.  We have definitely broke a chain or had to replace a spark plug and had to do backcountry mends and in some cases, push the bike out.  I really enjoy the sunset rides.  Kind of replaces the sunset surfs, while I've been out in the desert.

I am gearing up for a post on modern, reliable bikes, if you're looking to get into some backcountry.  I will also be posting some trail maps here.  So come back and keep an eye out for them for those of you that are also riders. 

 

In India, the bus drivers are paid to arrive to their destination on time.  Which sets the stage for very fast paced travel on winding backcountry roads.  In fact, I believe it is culturally known to be a bit unsafe.  The curves, for me only made the adventure more intriguing, and engaging.  

We were climbing the bridge from the secret beaches from Kerala, traveling through tea country, away from the deserted Safari headquarters, and were headed toward our descent into the desert wilds.  When we entered this one lane bridge, a little ahead of us, and barreling in our direction was this bus.  The woman next to me leaned over and said, "ego."  

So the busses pummeled toward eachother with increasing speed, intending to prove their right of way, of course, only to meet in the middle, argue who entered the bridge first, which was clearly the our bus.  So we backed up the length of the bridge and waited our turn. 

I originally went to the Valley of Fire to gather sandstone for a painting series I am working on.  The region is also home to Brittlebush, which in my recollection the Seri Indians used as a toothpaste.  I've tried it, it's a pungent chalky minty flavor.

The Valley of Fire derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago. Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape.

The Valley of Fire houses traces of the Basket Maker people and later the Anasazi Pueblo farmers from the nearby fertile Moapa Valley.  According to the National Park's researchers, the span of approximate occupation has been dated from 300 B.C.E. to 1150 C.E. Their visits probably involved hunting, food gathering, and religious ceremonies, although scarcity of water would have limited the length of their stay. Fine examples of rock art left by these ancient peoples can be found at several sites within the park.  

Listen to the sounds of the wind winding through the reverberant sandstone, reflect on the symbolism and meaning of the Petroglyphs, and wander through an entire landscape on fire.   

 
 

sources include: Valley of Fire National Park, National Geographic.

 

In the mid-1960s, during the same period that Michael Heizer was making large-scale, shaped, "negative" paintings in his New York City studio, he began a series of trips to his home states of Nevada and California to experiment on the expansive raw canvas of the American desert landscape, where he created "negative" sculpture. The genre that he and his colleague Walter De Maria invented there—later dubbed "Earth art" or "Land art"—changed the course of modern art history. Working largely outside the confines of the gallery and the museum, Heizer went on to redefine sculpture in terms of scale, mass, gesture, and process, creating a virtual lexicon of three-dimensional form. 

Heizer's Double Negative (1969) comprises two giant rectangular cuts (and the space in between them) in the irregular cliff edges of a tall desert mesa near Overton, Nevada. This monumental piece is iconic of the period and of works made in and of the landscape, as are Robert Smithson's later Spiral Jetty (1970), in Utah, and De Maria's The Lightning Field (1977), in New Mexico. Facing each other in the cliffs on either side of a wide cleft in the mesa, the cuts define rectilinear spaces from which bulldozers have removed the sandstone strata and rock. These spaces might as aptly be compared to the large-scale feats of modern engineering, or to the monumental earthen architecture of ancient times, as to sculpture. Thus, Heizer's work constitutes a challenge to sculpture's long history. 

When driving out to visit this must-do art trek, you are enlivened by Dia's minimal information, as you are climbing into backcountry through roads, with no evidence you are heading in the right direction, spare a cattle gaurd.  You are sort of floating above on this windtaken Mesa, and freely roaming towards the fabled Negative space. 

 

Sources: Dia, LA arts weekly, Land Arts Organization , CLUI, College of Marin

Sometimes, you're on foreign ground.  The citizen of the world is caught by surprise.   In a new place, where the new rules and dimensions are entirely different.

 Taking journalism into your own hands, and on your own terms is a very interesting sentiment.  You'll find yourself taking outward looking photos from the inside.   You are the imposter and you behave by the rules of the imposter.