Comic-Con San Diego

Comic-con is a colorful circus of imagination, the totally unexpected and bizarre, mixed with books, toys, gadgets, meeting favorite characters and the freedom of expression. It’s about the comics and everything related to this culture, including meeting creators, authors and artists.

2019 was the 50th anniversary of Comic-Con and it seems to grow larger every year. This year approximately 200,000 people were expected to attend bringing a $150 million profit to the city! Crazy crowded and throbbing with life, massive, I know…I’m not a crowd person, but I still go.

Get your costumes, face paint and badges ready because you’ll be drawn into everything pop culture, imagination and art. Every star and talent behind every big movie of the year will be there. But… tickets are super hard to get. You’ll have to register now to be allowed to try to buy tickets in a few months (they’ll send you an email with exact date) for next summer. You’ll spent a few hours in a online waiting room, biting your nails while watching specific days get sold out, but with some luck you might get to buy that Golden Ticket.

It’s so worth it!

There’s so much to see and do, like play patty cake with this guy.

…and going to panels like Scooby Doo where you can ask the crew anything you’d like and watch exclusive trailers, previews and actual footage of new movies/ shows way before anyone else.

Shop for anything comics related, shake a few hands, try new games and learn how it’s done …

Say hi to a few famous people if you’re into that sort of stuff. People wait in lines overnight and for several nights for their favorite panels. There are also long lines for autographs with the stars. I haven’t had those experiences yet. I mainly wander around the exhibit hall and check out books and attend panels with short lines. Maybe next year I’ll try camping out for Hall H where all the big movies are… that’s a pretty big maybe.

If you don’t get tickets there are a lot of things to do outside the convention like visiting the Walking Dead experience this year.
I got a few hugs!

Some of my favorite costumes…

What would you dress up as? Next year I might be a little more fun and go as something… Any suggestions?

A few things…

-Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking and standing a lot.
-Bring lots of snacks. The convention center’s food isn’t the best…
-The bags they give you can’t hold much. Mine ripped this year. Bring your own backpack.
-Plan ahead especially if you plan on attending specific panels.
-Get that registration done. This is something that is fun to attend at least once in your lifetime.

The Famous Joshua trees … their adventurous spirits are in a constant dance of trying to figure out which direction would be the very best to grow their branches and outdo their neighbor. Which kind of ends up looking like a dysfunctional struggle of trying to find the right direction… but it is exactly that, that makes them so beautiful.
They’re slow growing and some years they may not even grow at all. Their age? Impossible to tell as they don’t grow rings. On top of that, they aren’t actually trees! They are a kind of yucca, a succulent that stores water. But not just any yucca, they are the largest yucca and they grow only in the Mojave Desert.

The Joshua tree got its name from Mormon settlers who crossed through the area in the 1800s. The shape of the Joshua trees reminded them of a story from the bible in which Joshua lifts his hands up to the sky in prayer.

But it’s not just the yucca that make Joshua Tree National Park so amazing, it’s also the massive rock formations that are arranged in such a way that it looks like giants carelessly scattered them around in fun patterns and shapes. But, of course, the truth is that these rocks were formed over the course of millions of years. Great information can be found on the geological formation here
I love spending time climbing the rocks, finding amazing creations resembling faces, bizarre fantasy creations and animals in them and exploring the vegetation that lives around them. A favorite stop is Skull Rock and Grumpy Guy across the street from him.

I probably shouldn’t admit this… but I got lost. But sometimes getting lost can lead to great things and it did. I ran into a Frenchman who had been coming to the park for over 16 years who helped me back on track. And then we saw this…

Desert bighorn sheep. Supposedly between 200 to 300 of them live in the park but the Frenchman told me that in the 16 years he’d been in the park he had never seen one before. We watched this lady in silence for a long time while she stood there posing perfectly like the queen she is, then we went and saw the petroglyphs (below), when we came back we were surprised to see the baby right underneath trying to find it’s balance on shaky legs.
What a treat!

The Petroglyphs give you an idea of what Native Americans once created there, but the spot seems pretty ‘updated’ and painted over in a kind of wanna-be graffiti that is obviously new. A shame… but you’ll just need a little imagination to think of what once was.

If you like rock climbing like I do and venture out on hikes, be aware of snakes and spiders. Bees can also be pretty intense. At one point, by the Keys View outlook below, my car was surrounded by a large swarm. Keep an eye out for signs warning of bees and stay away from those areas if you’re allergic.
Coachella valley and the San Andreas fault line can easily be spotted from Inspiration Peak, Keys View and you might also get a glimpse of a little snow far away from the hot desert.

A short 1.3 mile hike that is worth going on even in the middle of summer is Barker dam. Bring water with you and make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes. The hike is breathtaking and the path is easy to follow.

There’s not much water left…

If you have a little more energy left then there’s another really great spot in the park to visit. The Cholla Garden. Also known as the Teddy Bear Cactus but don’t let that name fool you into starting a cacti hugging habit. It will be unpleasant… really unpleasant! This is also known as the ‘most dangerous trail’ at Joshua tree because these teddy bears will pretty much throw those spines at you if you get near them. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration but stay on the trail and if you’re bringing children now would be a good time for that piggy back ride! Don’t let all that stop you from going though. It is incredibly beautiful and peaceful.

A few thing…
– wear good shoes. (cacti/critters are everywhere)
– bring lots of drinks and food in a cooler. You will need it.
– we had absolutely no phone signal anywhere in the park

A free life, off the grid… no property taxes, no bills. What do you think?
The last lawless town where you can live freely and be whoever you please is located about two hours from the coast in Southern California in the desert where temperatures can easily reach 120. Here you can bring whichever shelter you desire, plant it, make roots, put a fence around it and stay. But completely lawless? According to a local resident, that’s a rumor. Slab City does have a few rules and a local group of guiding leaders, but they’re lenient.

Who lives there? Around 4,000 people. Snowbirds, artists, free spirits, criminals, off the grid squatters and those who wish to hide, but also millionaires, tired of the stress and wanting to escape regular corporate America. The city started taking shape in 1956 when the U.S. Marine Corps abandoned Fort Dunlap and left behind concrete foundation slabs. These slabs were used by nearby workers for parking their RVs and with time the area grew.

No power lines, no fresh water and no garbage pick up… but you’ll gain nearly total freedom. The housing is anything from RV’s to tents and temporary shelters made out of lumber and tarps.

We were invited in for a visit by a local. He didn’t want pictures taken, but gladly shared stories about life out there. I must admit I was skeptical and a bit terrified before going into Slab City, but seeing his set up changed my mind. When we first entered his sanctuary he wanted to know if I was enlightened (if I wasn’t he’d happily help with that!!). Then he asked us to plant garlic with him which we did in the sun in 110 degrees… He was fully self sufficient. He had a huge garden, a homemade very impressive solar oven where he cooked his meals and a pond under a tarp shelter with over 300 fish in it. This pond also served as his bath. And when we neared it and he started taking his shirt off I quickly came up with an excuse of why we suddenly had to leave. A bit disappointed he asked us to return anytime. I did sneak a photo of a corner of his garden below.
When we left this very friendly man, a world traveler and author (I saw his book on a table), I felt a bit sad for him. He seemed really lonely and desperate for company, and even though he loved the freedom of living out there, it is far from everything.

So who owns it? California, but it is so far away from everything that it seems almost forgotten. If you’re interested, you simply show up and claim your piece of land. Our friend out there, said he claimed his right in the middle of a road which upset his neighbors, but he put up his fence anyway and stayed. The future there is uncertain, however, as rumors tell stories of the land being divided up and sold. A fear, the free out there carry in the back of their minds as they battle the very high temperatures and the challenges of total independence.

Is it safe to visit? Before going I had been warned and heard many horror stories of drug addicts and violence out there, but it seemed perfectly safe during the day. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to visit alone at night. The biggest fear there, though, is the thought of the size of scorpions that must come out at night looking for food…
Do be careful though, there are many stories of robberies and tourists being hunted like animals out there. Go with a group and be prepared.
Slab City is located right next to Salvation Mountain (previous post).

Thousands of mesmerizing little details and every shade of the brightest colors imaginable makes this mountain of religious devotion stand out brighter than the sun in this very hot desert, giving a simple but clear message to it’s visitors, “God is love”.

The artist Leonard Knight spent 28 years single-handedly pouring his soul into this magnificent artwork. You don’t have to be religious at all to appreciate the effort that was put into making it. In 2002 this site was deemed a National Treasure by the Congressional record of the United States. And a treasure it is. The artist Leonard Knight passed a few years ago, but the mountain is up-kept perfectly by a non profit organization.

It’s painted on a mountainside and supported by lots of hay, tires, cement, wood, over half a million gallons of paint and occasionally car doors. You can climb to the top but stay on the yellow path to preserve the art.

The cross, like a beacon of light, stands tall at the top leading the people of the desert towards it.

To the right of the mountain you can go inside a cave like creation of even more devotion. Windows and lots of framed photographs gives you a peek inside the life of the artist and the history of the mountain.

The trees inside are fascinating art in themselves. Don’t forget to take a moment to look up.

Salvation Mountain has been featured in numerous music videos, documentaries and if you’ve ever watched “Into the Wild” you might just recognize it.

A few things…
– A few cans of latex water based paint donations, any color, will be greatly appreciated if you plan a visit.
– It’s hot! Very hot, and there are no stores close by, so bring drinks and snacks.

Do you ever visit places and think wow this would be a great setting for..? This place, Bombay Beach, would be a really great setting for any post apocalyptic movie imaginable. Every time I visit I think of The Walking Dead and halfway expect to see a horde of zombies coming at me. But … all I am met with is a dusty, bleached, rusted and nearly abandoned town with ‘the lowest bar in the western hemisphere’ and two small convenience stores.

Nearly 300 people call this town home. I’ve seen three of them and a wild bunny.

In 1905 the Colorado river breached a canal that flowed for two years and settled in the dry desert creating the Salton Sea. Birds and fish thrived here and by the 1950ies small resort towns popped up along it’s shores and it became a vacation paradise featuring boating, fishing and water skiing. But by the 1970ies things started going downhill. Runoff from local farms introduced large amounts of pollution to the Salton Sea and it became saltier than the Pacific Ocean. Depleted oxygen in the sea killed off the fish and as they decomposed, littering the shore, the sand became coated in a thick layer of sludge and bones. You still see them there, their rotting bodies, making the salty beach whiter.

The scent? Is hard to describe, but I’d say something close to rotten eggs. Sulfuric gasses are released from the bottom of the lake by ecological shifts creating the stench that can be so potent it can be smelled over a hundred miles away at times.
So why visit? Abandoned places fascinate me. They are a treasure for the curious to imagine what once was. Bombay Beach hasn’t been completely abandoned though. You’ll find a lot of graffiti, some of the ruins are completely blanket in layers of it, poetry, some humor and even art made out of the destruction. Like the Trash Tree below

A fancy locked and chained up gate keeps visitors out of what once appeared to be a glorious gated community right on the water… now, when you peek through the bars of the gate, you’ll see homes that have been ripped apart and splintered into ruins giving you only a faint idea of what once was and how they were cared for and lived in. Now they’re mere canvases for graffiti, mostly crude poetry and art. Even the palm trees that once majestically shaded the entrance booths have suffered.

My favorite spot in Bombay Beach is the drive in theater featuring a blank white truck trailer as the screen. (E Ave close to 4th) What a little love (okay maybe a lot) could do for some of those cars… but in the state they’re in there, they fit their surroundings.

Due to occasional flooding it seems the area closest to the shore is the worst off. One house by a levee appeared to be occupied but the rest are ruins. The sadness of it all is a bit overwhelming.

From here you can walk to the shore. On a windy day the scent from the sea can be pretty overwhelming.

Old power lines hang useless from poles…

Recently artist are starting to buy up some of the old property around town to make galleries and art exhibits like the botanical garden and the opera house below.

A few tips…
– Watch your step everywhere you go. There’s broken glass and sharp objects scattered all around.
– Be alert and bring water. It’s hot!
– The residents are often up for a quick chat. Great stories can be heard at Ski Inn especially one about a visit from Anthony Bourdain.
– Many documentaries and films are made on the Salton Sea. I recommend watching them but also take the time to go check it out for yourself. It’s definitely worth a visit
– And finally, a little warning. Circling the Salton Sea is a great day trip. We stopped at Salton City on the other side. The ‘sand’ (layer of sludge and fish bones) on the shore there, close to the water, suddenly gave away under us and we sank quickly. Getting back up and out was scary and not easy. Thankfully we had lots of water to wash it off afterwards.
– There’s an annual event called Bombay Beach Biennale festival for the arts in April every year including opera, ballet, film screenings and music bringing a bit of life back to Bombay Beach.

The Last Resort…

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