In East Jesus, just south of West Satan and inland from the Salton Sea, lies a sort of metaphorical Franciscan Assemblage – the remaining eclectic scrapings left after the great Farallon plate subduction-- of memory: seemingly random, chaotic and ragtag, caught between the past, present and future, between the hope of a promise kept and the unexpected detritus of its fulfillment (or, if you’d rather, the complete betrayal of its terms). It’s as though Yochabel (or at least deMille's version of her), her garment caught under the great moving stone of progress, stops struggling and instead paints a mural.
Shortly after photographing this, several dozen feet away, a tall tan middle-aged man, naked except for a blue speedo, holds two empty buckets and walks slowly toward the fence surrounding the Coachella Canal (“Do Not Enter”). It’s 110 degrees. His dogs wait. He returns, buckets full. We wave. I ask if he needs help to his tent. He says no. He enters the tent a few feet away through blue tarps. Hand-painted signs tell that he is a Persian War veteran and that he owns several guns. He projects monk-like peace and solitude.
Just past West Satan and the aquaduct, unbeknownst to me then, Navy Seals train for deployment in the Middle Eastern desert. I approach the single sign, a few feet from the aquaduct, discouraging entry. “Danger: Military Reservation: Unexploded Ordnance.” There is no fence.
East Jesus, California