June 07, 2010

Retreading Old Ground

There are two kinds of people: those that return to their favorite restaurant over and over again, and those that constantly seek the newest openings, the rarest finds, the most exclusive specials. That makes New York City a good place for the latter.

I am a third kind of person, a strange, mosaic hybrid of comfort-seeker and exploring adventurer.

When it comes to hiking, I usually do a trail once, take lots of photos to document it, and then move on to the next trail. What could I possibly see the second, third and fourth times that I didn’t discover the first? Would it be worth seeing at all if I missed it when I was actually looking for it?

But in reality, I don’t see everything when I go out there. Sometimes I am so hyper-focused on finding ruins, navigating the trail, and securing my footing that I miss a historical marker posted right in front of me.

Other places draw me back time and again. I can’t get enough of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and its decaying New York State Pavilion, whose appearance seems to change depending on the season, the angle of the sun, and the amount of weedy overgrowth that’s overtaken its terrazzo tile floor.

I keep returning to the Salton Sea, too, as though visiting my grandmother in a nursing home, as though the sea needs my visit as much as I need the Sea.

It’s been about a year or so since I last visited the Salton Sea, when I hit the jackpot of decayed sites to photograph, and got a little too familiar with the locals at the Ski Inn. I’d hesitated going back, not wanting to establish a relationship with the people of the sea, but rather the sea itself, and all it had overtaken (including the drowned trucks, docks, trailers, birds, fish, etc.). I was in Palm Springs two months ago, within an easy day trip's driving distance from the Sea, but chose to stay local and revisit a previously failed hike rather than revisiting the Sea.

But this time, having heard that the old North Shore Yacht Club had been miraculously restored to house the Salton Sea History Museum, and having researched some additional sites of decay I'd yet to photograph, suddenly the Sea was new again, and begging for another visit.

I could see the new Yacht Club once I'd turned off Highway 111 onto Marina Drive, and its bright yellow fa├žade took my breath away.

The restoration has preserved many of Albert Frey's original architectural features, including the nautical portholes and curved upper level.

I was sad to see the pool on the seaside of the building had been removed. (Compare here.)

It's a gorgeous new building, an anomaly in North Shore, CA that's still surrounded by an abandoned bait & tackle shop (which is rumored to receive restoration soon)...

...other crusty relics...

...and the persistence of death.

Fish are STILL dying and being spat out by the Sea...

...and birds follow suit.

On the other side of the Sea, a nearly two-hour drive away, birds are thriving and squawking, mindless of the drowned power lines that surround them.

Pigeons still fly out of abandoned apartment building eaves, where swimming pools stand unfilled and bleached by the sun, and mattresses and couches have been heaved out onto carless parking lots and grassless yards.

Believe it or not, those are the lucky ones. Others were overtaken by the Sea decades ago, and then rejected just as quickly, left to stand in their own, salty, waterless grave that even the birds won't touch.

Although I added some new sites to my growing visual map of the Salton Sea during this trip, in truth, I didn't see anything new except the restored yacht club. Everything else had been there long before I arrived, and didn't show any signs of rebirth anytime soon. If they haven't already been submerged into the Sea, maybe its rising waters will select them, too...soon enough.

Maybe the Sea has selected me, too. Will it wash me away one day?

Maybe it will be the day that I return to see the Sea at sunset. I haven't seen that, yet. Surely the sun's setting rays will cast a new light upon the Sea...

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