st-ART me up, Hollywood Style 

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Only in Hollywood, California. Last weekend the eternally cool and fabulously historic Highland Gardens Hotel hosted the second annual stARTup Art Fair, featuring  over 50 evocative and inspirational artists. These creators of art were paired up, and together they transformed hotel rooms overlooking the whimsical old-school courtyard into mini art galleries featuring their works. Fantastico! 


Impressively stiff cocktails, fine wine and tasty bites to nosh on were available as well. What an absolutely innovative, hip and cool way to see art, and to meet and converse with the artists themselves. Enveloped in the fusion of lush flora and fauna and the good energy and positive vibrations of art, the people who create it and those who admire it. Delicious combination. 

The chicken tacos and fruity vodka cocktail got me nice and juiced up and ready to explore the art show. 

Met Jesse Standlea and his Centerpiece. Some of these creations are only as heavy as the paper they are made from. His work is shown at the Torrance Art Museuk and he was really enjoying the weekend and meeting people who stopped by his gallery. Off to a great start! 

Some rooms I slowly wandered through and others drew me in for quite some time. The beauty of it all; there was no time limit. I was free to peruse when, how and where I wanted.  

It felt like I had entered another world, an art maze of sorts. In and out of different “galleries” (hotel rooms), gazing and studying all the different pieces, while others did the same. 

I loved observing how some artists used the hotel room furniture as props or easels of sorts, while others hid all the furniture away in closets or behind curtains. 

And then, I happened upon this incredibly friendly and talented guy and his work. Richard Gayler, a Los Angeles Westside elementary school teacher, who spends anywhere from 17 to 200 hours creating these pieces by utilizing individual dots. Yes, that’s right. Individual dots. That takes some seriously intense channeling of energy and focus, I’d say. Playful yet so detailed. Loved it! 

Look at these two characters. Magnificent! 

A little further along in my travels I met up with Randi Matushevitz. What a hoot! She has endless stories and energy and it shows in her art. She has lived in Vegas, Miami and LA multiple times and through those experiences she has reinvented herself and her art. She is very proud of the direction her new work is taking, and we can see why. 

Another one of my favorite stops of the evening. I had the pleasure of spending a good chunk of time philosophizing with LA artist (by way of NYC) Wayne Chang. Sharing perspectives on the love/hate relationship with the concept of Disney and really, all things LA in general. Truly enjoyable running into someone who “gets” it. So profoundly talented, smart and admirably skilled at conveying his feelings both through art and words. 

Last of all, I rounded out my night with a simple and lovely chat with Carlos Grasso. Listened to his tales of life in Ojai and even learned about the woman who had a very recent heart transplant and how deeply touched she was by Grasso’s heart piece (below). Such an open and kind soul in addition to being gifted with such talent. 

What I love most about art is connecting with the people who are able to give visual form and life to their thoughts, passions, and emotions. I loved every minute of this event and wish I had gone all three days! Thanks to all who participated and helped to make this happen, and thank you once again to my all-time most favorite, the Highland Gardens Hotel, for hosting this sensational event! I have loved staying at this hotel on my countless previous visits to LA, but this rare experience will forever be etched in my memory. 

   

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Breathe in the Good Life of Prescott, Arizona – Day 9, Part 2

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Prescott, Arizona. A picturesque and historic desert mountain town approximately 90 minutes north of Phoenix. Old West. Charming. Friendly. Relaxing. More than 800 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. A quaint and highly walkable downtown referred to as “Whiskey Row,” filled with shoppes, galleries, trading posts, restaurants, and historic hotels and saloons. How could I possibly explore all that this area has to offer in less than two days? I was as determined as ever to give it my best shot.


Spent a remarkable morning in the old mining town of Jerome. On the way back to Prescott, I made a point to stop off at the modern yet rustic hillside Phippen Museum of Western Art that I spotted on the way up the road earlier in the day. So glad I did! Check out the view from the parking lot. I was immediately and warmly greeted by volunteer Roger Gaddis at the registration desk, and I asked if it might be possible to get a highlights tour. Well, it just so happened that docent and local artist Joe Webster said he would be glad to do so. Seriously? Fantastic! People are so nice here.

Below is a bit of what I learned about this understated repository of Western art. Years after his passing, the George Phippen Memorial Foundation received a generous 3-acre land grant from the Deep Well Ranch and opened the doors of the museum in 1984 with the objective of honoring the memory and art of George Phippen and other great American West artists. Phippen, incredibly talented and self-taught, was one of the four founding members and the first president of Cowboy Artists of America, a members-only organization of traditional cowboy and Western artists. Current exhibits include the third annual “Hold Your Horses” art exhibit and sale of unique and expressive works and a phenomenal “Golden Age of Cowgirls” exhibit with a spirited collection of cowgirl-themed art, photography, memorabilia and artifacts. I was graciously allowed to snap a few photos to show as examples of the extraordinary art that lives within these walls. Permanent exhibits include works by Solon Borglum, Ray Swanson, George Phippen and the Western Heritage Gallery. Enjoy a few snippets of what this museum has to offer.

The glorious clouds. Humility. Gratitude.The cowgirl exhibit was so fun! Yee haw! Rebels before their time.And this guy … ever heard of him? Tom Mix, an early Western movie megastar. You will see him everywhere in Prescott. He starred in nearly 300 pictures, some of which were filmed in Prescott, where he owned the Bar Circle A Ranch back in 1913. Absolutely precious. So lifelike. I want to give her a hug. I agree with Ray Swanson, the artist of the painting below. There is something so captivating and magical about the Native American culture. 

Thank you kindly for the tour and hospitality, Joe and Roger. What a magnificent museum! Much appreciated.

Moving on down the road, I parked right downtown and made my way in and out of the shoppes, galleries, saloons and eateries along Whiskey Row. Come along with me as I take you on a walking tour of historic downtown Prescott.

The Rancher’s Wife Van Gogh’s EarThe Ice Cream Parlour Ortega’s 6th Generation (trading post)Prescott Trading CompanyOne of my favorites, the Ian Russell Gallery of Fine Art, where I had the pleasure of chatting with the fashionable and sophisticated Christine. Very friendly and in the know about the local and regional art scene. Thanks for all the tips, Christine! I so love this! Bizarre and meaningful at the same time.I absolutely love meeting new, interesting and delightful people on my travels. So fulfilling! 
The Palace Saloon. Opened in 1877 (some historians claim 1868). Boy, if these walls could talk! Well, they kind of did, actually, with all the amazing vintage photographs. It was sheer entertainment just standing there looking at all the history of this place. A hangout for the likes of “Doc” Holliday, and Virgil and Wyatt Earp. The oldest and best-known frontier saloon in the state of Arizona. Can’t you just see them busting through these swinging doors like in all the old Westerns? Sensational! Look! It’s our cowboy friend, Tom Mix! Devastating Whiskey Row fire of 1900 destroyed most all of the buildings along Montezuma Street. Patrons actually moved the intricately carved bar across the street and saved it from being burned, so it is still intact to this day. New and improved Palace Hotel and Saloon, reopened in 1901. Just a few gambling essentials from back in the day. You never know when you might have to use a little force to change the outcome of the game. A George Phippen postcard. How coincidental! Not only can you sit down for a beer and something tasty to eat, but the Palace Saloon also is a pure treasure trove of historical photos and memorabilia. Much of it is on loan from the Sharlot Hall Museum. Food smelled delicious and the staff were a nice bunch.

Let us continue on now, shall we?

Take in a cold beverage and some live music at one of the many saloons along Whiskey Row. At the very least, belly up to the bar and treat yourself to a sarsaparilla while getting to know a few of the locals.

Jersey Lilly’sMatt’sAnd the Bird Cage Saloon Savor the unique art and craft goods at the Newman Gallery. And down the street at the “Cornerstone of Prescott” stands the historic Hotel St. Michael. Opened in 1901, after the devastating fire of 1900 burned down the Hotel Burke that originally stood in its place, the Hotel St. Michael has hosted many dignitaries and VIPs over the years. I am intrigued and entertained by the way each hotel boasts the unique and historic qualities of its elevator!  I love the displays of vintage photos everywhere you go. It gives the feeling of strong sense of historic pride within Prescott.  Whiskey Row then …And now …Stunning Courthouse Square! It seems as though people treat this like a central plaza. A genuine gathering place within the community. So pleasant and beautifully kept up. Like a postcard! The location for many local events and concerts. So down home. I love it! Find your inner mystic among the books, crystals and such at Lifeways Books and Gifts. Another fantastical stop along my tour, ‘Tis Art Center and Gallery. An awesome space with good energy! I told the woman there that this would be ideal for private events.An old microwave door repurposed into art. Now that’s cool. I love this piece. So playful.The Elks Theatre and Opera House, built in 1904 as a clubhouse and lovingly restored by the city of Prescott. Sure would like to see a show at this vintage beauty. 
Crossed the street to take a peek inside yet another remarkable historic hotel. The crown jewel of Prescott, the 1927 Hassayampa Inn. Hand-painted, wood-beam ceiling. Remarkable!
The elegant 78-room hotel, designed with Spanish and Italian influences, was completed for a total of $275,000 in only 10 months. With early guests such as Tom Mix, Will Rogers and Clark Gable to name a few, and more recently Sam Elliott, the Beach Boys and my favorite, Mr. Tom Selleck! The Hassayampa, too, prides itself on its vintage elevator. Oh, and they are dog-friendly too! The original Peacock dining room then. and now … The Bar. Love the colors in contrast with the dark wood. Wandered into this unbelievably cool coffeeshop/bakery/seasoning haven. The Spice Traveler is a wonderland for those who love to cook or want to learn how. Recipes, ideas, samples. They’ve got it all. Unadulterated discovery and exploration for your taste buds. As I made my way to the back of the shoppe, I stumbled upon the stairway to Superstition Meadery (aka Heaven), which just HAPPENED to be on my Prescott to-do list. Imagine the good fortune!  Mead, the oldest form of alcohol known to man, made with fermented honey. This was a first for me. Quite tasty, I will say! If you have never tried it, do yourself a favor and find some. Better yet, come here to Superstition, and Matthew will serve you a flight that will sweep you off your feet. Lagrimas de Oro. Divine. Blueberry Spaceship. Tart and sassy. Relaxing in this cozy, dimly lit cavern with their mead flights, here are two very satisfied customers and new residents of Prescott, Elizabeth and Morgan. Enjoy your new town, ladies! It was great chatting with you. It really is the nectar of the gods. I highly recommend a visit here. Drinking all that mead, I worked up an appetite, so I slid on down to the Prescott Brewing Company for a tall glass of ice water and a Buffalo chicken wrap. Hit. The. Spot. Feeling like a million bucks as I headed back to my adorable nest at the Motor Lodge. I scooped up my furry, well-rested friend Elliott and make our way to the Granite Dells for sunset! No. This is not fake. This is not a stock photo. These are the 1.4 billion-year-old Granite Dells at Watson Lake. Characterized by the smooth and rounded rock formations caused by weathering. Photo taken with my iPhone and untouched. I was completely overwhelmed by this scenery. Awestruck.
Even Elliott had to pause for a moment to take it all in. Outstanding.Do be sure to cover yourself with bug spray, as I was viciously attacked by hordes of mosquitoes. Perhaps they come out at dusk, or perhaps my blood is just incredibly tasty? Ok, gross. Regardless … unforgettable views. So peaceful. Truly lovely.And as the sun sets on the Arizona horizon, I am grateful for all the adventure and beauty I experienced in just one day. One for the books. Making a beeline straight for my bed, I got distracted by all the neon and … wait a minute … is that jazz coming from Courthouse Square? Uh-oh. One last stop. Then it’s bedtime. I promise.
My good parking karma still in full effect, I scored a spot directly across the street and we were serenaded for another hour or so by mellow jazz harmonies, smooth grooves and classics like Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train.” I was completely exhausted but so incredibly content. Elliott and I even made some new human and doggy friends. Returned to the Motor Lodge just in time to drift off into a deep slumber in that white fluffy cloud of a bed. Night-night, my friends. Prescott makes me happy.

Back in the Saddle Again – Day 7 

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It felt good to get on the road again for the second half of our journey. Looking forward to new sights, sounds, smells and experiences. 

Pictures tell a thousand words, so without further ado, join me on today’s Southwestern adventure.

Driving through southern Colorado. 

Pit stop in Ft. Garland.

So much greener than I imagined it would be. Exquisite. 

Continuing towards Taos. The scenery is ethereal. 

Near Taos Pueblo. Sheer solitude. 

Arriving at Taos Plaza. The same as I remembered from before. Charming historic plaza. Such a mellow, good vibe here. People are so very friendly and low key. Definitely a new energy here since my last visit. A bit more of a hip factor, even more art, and a slight bohemian flavor. I like it! 

But this was a first for me. A stroll through the John Dunn House Shops. A delightful afternoon perusing the boutiques, people watching, listening to the street musician and trying out the noodle cart.

Cold rice noodles with zucchini, squash, and peanut sauce. DELISH! Elliott really enjoyed the veggies as well. 

The woman who owns this gallery learned to paint in 3-D while studying in Rome. It took her 20 years to perfect her craft. No photos allowed inside but 3-D glasses are provided for full viewing effect. 

Gem and mineral shops. A lamp created within a sanded down, perfectly smooth, stone block. Magnificent! 

The gallery’s resident dog was very welcoming to Elliott. 

A chocolate and coffee bar. 

Apparently this big girl has a thing for small boy dogs. So precious. She couldn’t get enough of Elliott. 

Circled back to the Plaza where one can find all sorts of gifts, jewelry, art and sculptures. 

And another meet and greet. 

The highlight of my afternoon in Taos was the serendipitous taking of this photo where I met the 3 women sitting beneath the statue and engaged in an amusing conversation about road travels and such. Connecting with other adventurers is most definitely one of the best parts of my travels. Sharon, Jan and Penny are kindred souls. Free spirits who have been friends for many years and came together for this road trip. Thank you for sharing your stories and wisdom with me. Safe travels as you continue on down the  road. I hope our paths cross again some day. 

Onward for 73 miles to Santa Fe along side the Rio Grande. Is there a way to bottle the peace and serenity of the open road and these sensational views?   

Rolling through Española with the bikers. 

We made it! The Silver Saddle Motel in Santa Fe. Everything I had hoped for and more.

Classic Americana at its finest. Meet Chuffy. Oh and he lights up at night too. 

Every last detail of this 1953 motel is sheer perfection. 

A vintage trailer now resides in the newly built out back patio. 

The cozy room is clean, comfortable and complete with a small refrigerator, cable tv and free Wi-Fi. 27 rooms in all. Room front parking for your ease and convenience. Oh and free brekkie served until 10am daily. 

The Wild Wild West. This motel is aces! I can’t imagine a better hotel experience in the Santa Fe area. 

Behind the lobby is a small antique shop with a vintage yellow formica table exactly like the one I have but these chairs are fabulous! I need them! 


And Bryan. What a gem! Such a happy, helpful, informative and fun guy. The kind of energy you want around you all the time.  He is the ideal person you want to run your front desk. Had such a nice chat with him. And I owe my Santa Fe night excursion to Meow Wolf all to him. Thank you for being awesome Bryan!  

Disclaimer: Please do yourself a favor and at least Google this place, if not visit for yourself. There is no way I could ever fully describe what you will experience during your time here. Introducing… Meow Wolf. 

The permanent exhibit is called House of Eternal Return. Once you’re here, you will understand why. 

Meow Wolf is an immersive, experiential art installation.  You will enter endless realms through portals such as fireplaces, caves and even the refrigerator. 

This is the family who lives in the house. There is a mystery involved if you want to play along, otherwise just enjoy the mind blowing experience. There is this slightly creepy undertone which makes it all the more titillating. 

Yes, Elliot and I crawled through this fireplace to enter another realm. 

Leaving one realm and returning to the house. Through the refrigerator. Yes. Seriously out of this world cool. 

You are walking, climbing, stepping and touching your way through art. AWESOME! 

Dimly lit caves. 

Walking through a bigger than life, black lit, neon fish tank. 

Note the deep sea diver that lived in every fish tank you had as a child. 

I don’t want to give too much away so I will just take you to the parking lot where there are food trucks and giant sculptures placed, such as this spider. 

Opened in March of 2016, this 22,000 square foot space of mind trip after mind trip awaits you here in Santa Fe. They have private events, DJs and new installations and exhibits coming. You will never forget it and want to return for more immediately. I know I do. 

Good night Santa Fe. 

Hummingbirds, Land Art and Old Friends – Day 3  

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Spent the morning basking in the glorious Utah sunshine. I took Elliott for a walk around the property and it really is beautiful out here in Green River. So small. So quiet. So peaceful. 

I found a nice seat on the outdoor patio where I could eat my made to order brekkie that was served by Carlos, a super star employee at the River Terrace Inn. His friendly, outgoing and helpful nature totally made up for the lackluster welcome I received upon arrival to an empty front desk where I waited for over 10 minutes for someone to appear in order to check me in the night before. But I digress. As I enjoyed my tasty eggs, toast and hashbrowns I had the pleasure of watching scads of hummingbirds fly up to the feeders placed around the patio. What a treat! I love those magical little creatures. They always remind me of Tinkerbell! 



Thanks to a little help from my new found friend Carlos, I journeyed up a nearby dirt road to a hill where two magnificent land art installations can be found. Designed by Australian artist Andrew Rogers and financed by 89 year old Seattle resident, school teacher and railroad fanatic, Herbert Steiner. “Ratio,” as it is called, is based on the Fibonacci sequence of mathematics. Steiner has an affinity for the solitude of open land he found in Green River and wanted to leave something for future generations to admire. “Ratio” was erected in 2011, while its new companion “Elements,” (meaning the four elements earth, wind, fire and water), came along in 2013. Interesting side note: “Ratio” is capped with 23-karat gold in order to reflect for miles away, as is one of the columns of “Elements.”  Brilliant! Thank you Mr. Steiner for these fascinating art sculptures you have gifted for all to see. 



Surprisingly cool things to see and do in Green River, Utah. Will head back again at some point for a deeper dive. Loved it! Who knew?? 

Today’s agenda only requires a short drive to Grand Junction, thankfully, as I think Elliott and I are growing a bit weary of the longer car rides at this point. 



Head straight for Two Rivers Winery in Grand Junction to meet up with Colin, my old pal from way back in junior high school. 

Between the delectable wine of Colorado’s Western Slope, crackers with fig and olive tapenade and entertaining conversation, time literally flew by. 



Took off from there for a quick stop at Colin’s place near the sensational Book Cliffs. Got introduced to his “laying” chickens, both of which Elliott seemed quite interested in. 



And the good times rolled on… To a (dog friendly) brewery in Palisade with a super cool vibe where I got acquainted with Colin’s gal pal Susan. Good time!


Stunning scenery is everywhere around you. Incredible! 


And last but certainly not least, dinner with Joanie and fam! I love this woman like a sister! I’ve known her forever as she was my older sister’s BFF in high school. She is one of my very favorite people on this earth and I adore time spent with her. Seated next to her is her adorable son, Ben, who is unbelievably tolerant of his parents eccentric (but lovable) ways. 

El Tapatio in Grand Junction is muy muy bueno! Giant portions of mouth watering authentic Mexican cuisine. 

Feast your eyes on the best chicken tortilla soup… Ever!


Pictured below is Joanie’s husband and all around dreamboat (and Fidel Castro’s doppelgänger) and comedian, Kent. And Colin decided to join us as well. What a meal! Surrounded by awesome old friends, delicious food and lots of storytelling and laughter. Loved it!  


Joanie would not divulge how, when or where she learned to tie a knot in a cherry stem with her tongue. Hot sultry Mamacita! 


Grand Junction was an extra stop planned specifically to bathe myself in the love and good vibes of old friends. Time with people like these folks is priceless and I’ll take whatever time I can get, whenever I can get it. Thank you Joanie, Kent, Ben and Colin for infusing your joy, love and free thinking into my soul. I am one exhausted (but happy) girl. Don’t ever pass up the journey for the destination. 

Far Out in East Jesus

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“When you get to Slab City, be sure to keep on going until you get to East Jesus.” Grateful for the tip I received from two cool chicks I met at the Salton Sea Mud Pots, I decided to follow their advice to seek out East Jesus (and avoid West Satan) after spending time at Salvation Mountain. If I had known what kind of a surreal treat I was in for, I would have allotted an extra hour or two for this tripindicular excursion. The time and depth of my maiden flight through Slab City and East Jesus were just enough to mystify and intrigue me to the point of journaling my thoughts on this adventure and wanting to go back for more.

 
As I rounded the corner from Salvation Mountain, I was flashed a smile and a peace sign from atop the portal (aka guard tower) of what is affectionately known as “The Slabs,” or Slab City. This Sonoran Desert campsite was once home to the U.S. Marines’ Camp Dunlap in the 1940s and 1950s. The area was eventually abandoned, with the structures demolished, leaving only the concrete foundation slabs behind. Thus the name Slab City was born and somewhere around 1965 people began migrating to this territory slowly but surely for a multitude of reasons. Slabbers consist of everyone from snowbirds, retirees and the impoverished, to wanderers, artists, students and escapees of Corporate America. People from all walks of life including those simply wanting to live off the grid… way off the grid. Common denominator being the fundamental concept of freedom. Slab City is considered the “last free place on earth,” as its land is technically owned by (the AWOL landlords of) the California State Lands Commission, where people inhabit space here free of charge with little to no oversight, but also freedom as it relates to a genuine “live and let live” community. People come as they are, free to be who they want to be, and free from the usual constrictions of modern societal standards, judgment  and pressures.   

On the flip side, Slab City is also free from any formal electricity, running water, sewage system, traffic signals, toilets or trash service, with the woefully unmet expectation of “pack it in and pack it out.” People live in creative adaptations of tents, campers, trailers, vans, buses and RVs and commute to the decaying towns of Niland or Calipatria for necessary supplies and goods and some even bring in or build their own solar panel systems for energy. 

  
    
 Consisting more of camps rather than buildings, the town boasts a library, internet cafe, Christian Center, skate park housed in the remains of the old military base pool, hot springs, shower and a water tank turned hostel as well as a spot called the Oasis Club where you can grab a cup of coffee, Builder Bill’s outdoor live music venue called The Range and of course, the private artist residency of East Jesus and its brilliantly eerie sculpture garden. While it looks somewhat post-apocalyptic at first glance, this nomadic community of like-minded individuals is a wildly fascinating cross-section of our contemporary culture.  

   
  
Flash back to 2007, when Burning Man enthusiast Charlie Russell (rest in peace, May 2011) said goodbye to Oakland and headed out to Slab City to work with Salvation Mountain’s Leonard Knight, as well as establish a site where he could create and exhibit art on a larger scale. The official set up costs in Slab City were well within his budget: free!  Upon settling in with his art cars, including his beloved VW bus and bejeweled work of art, Cinnabar Charm, Charlie’s original vision morphed into the prolific reality of a sustainable, habitable and ever-changing living art installation and community, East Jesus.     

Little by little, Charlie crafted an entire complex of utilitarian spaces out of what many would consider useless junk. He fabricated living quarters out of the large shipping container that he had transported from Oakland with his belongings, along with hospitality and operations facilities, and a music room complete with a sound and lighting system. He devised an intricate system of solar panels that were used to juice up batteries for power, as well as installing a generator for back up. Sheer genius. Charlie wanted all who were artistically inclined to be able to take refuge at this sanctuary and safe haven where they could have the freedom to “do as thou wilt.” As others journeyed out to the desert, the sculpture garden grew in size. East Jesus is a nomadic civilization beyond the edge of the world, where free-range art lives and breathes. An other-worldly vortex of art, if you will, where every action is an opportunity for self expression. Re-use, re-purpose, and if all else fails, recycle. Find the beauty in everything.  It’s the kind of place you could expect to encounter sightings of such mythical creatures as goblins, gnomes and the occasional unicorn.

 
I strolled through the sculpture garden one late afternoon in February and took my time contemplating each piece of art, utterly mesmerized. An elephant constructed out of tires, a giant alligator made from chicken wire and used plastic grocery bags,  

a car covered in elaborate shell designs, wind chimes designed from a slew of random junk frolicking in the breeze,  

a Car-B-Cue (an annual ceremonial car burning in Charlie’s honor), 

a wall of thoughtfully stacked televisions with pointed messages painted on each screen, and on and on it goes.   

I’m itching to spend more time with the residents time so I can deepen my knowledge about this unique and collaborative commune. The energy here is unlike any other. A cauldron of magic, love, passion, anger, discovery, expression, ingenuity and fantasy. Like an extended session on Freud’s couch.

While I am not at liberty to speak for or about the inhabitants of Slab City or East Jesus, I am altogether fascinated by this place and feel compelled to make a return trip for a deeper dive into the people who live here, who they are, what brought them and why they stay. I am strangely attracted to this freedom from modern life and must feed my artistic curiosity. I raise my Chocolate Martini to you, Charlie Russell, Lynne Bright, Builder Bill, Leonard Knight, Frank and everyone else who has ever brought their positive and creative energy to Slab City and East Jesus.
  

There Will Be A Few Mud Pots on the Way to Salvation 

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The longer I live in Los Angeles, the more I understand the need to escape the madness. As many awe-inspiring things as there are to see and do here, the crowds, traffic and frenetic pace and attitudes can prove somewhat stifling and claustrophobic at times. I like to alternate my weekends for a good healthy blend of landscapes, cultures, activities and entertainment. So off I go, this time headed for the Sonoran Desert. Destination, Salvation Mountain. Located approximately 200 miles east of LAX, 80 miles southeast of Palm Springs and 20 miles from the southeast edge of the Salton Sea in the agriculturally rich Imperial Valley, you will come to the towns of Calipatria and Niland. 

   
 
   
Don’t blink or you will miss them! Yet, when you take a closer look, you will find a treasure trove of gems just waiting for you to discover. Checking in to the ONE hotel in the entire surrounding area, the Calipatria Inn (a fine little establishment with on site dining and very nice and helpful staff!), I was able to glean a bit of friendly local intel and started plotting my day. 

   
 Went into town to grab a bite to eat at Archie’s Place and was not only treated to incredibly taste home cooked Mexican fare, but spent time talking to the owner and her enchanting little boy. They were so excited to hear that I came to see Salvation Mountain. The restaurant owner proudly showed me a photo of her son with creator Leonard Knight, who came in regularly for brunch. Some of the best enchiladas I have ever had and the freshly made hibiscus tea was out of this world.

  
   
 First stop, the Salton Sea Geothermal Mud Volcanoes (aka the “mud pots”). Very easy to find off Highway 111 at the intersection of Shrimpf and Davis Road inbetween Niland and Calipatria. Not far from “town,” but take it slow and easy, as the road is a real washboard in some places. You will look to your right and see the behemoth geothermal power plant in the background but in the foreground you will notice these giant ant hill looking formations. Park anywhere along the side of the road and as you walk toward the pots, and you will be able to hear the gurgling and bubbling noises coming from inside the earth. Totally fascinating! There are 20+ hills and as you walk around you can peer into them and watch them burp and spew mud. Very science class photo-worthy!   

   
   
 

   
    
 Elliott must have thought there were evil spirits coming out of these volcanoes and proceeded to bark and try to attack them. Gotta love that little guy! Hopefully he doesn’t know something that I don’t? Took many photos of this slice of land that perhaps resembles another planet in outer space. I visited the geothermal fields in Iceland but they definitely didn’t look like this. Really cool and quick side trip while you’re in the area. So pleased I was able to encounter these anomalies of nature. After wiping off Elliott’s incredibly muddy paws, we cheerfully said so long to the mud pots and headed out for legendary Salvation Mountain.

   
 A quick 15 minute drive through Niland and you really won’t believe your eyes as you approach this brightly colored mountainous work of folk art. Leonard Knight’s vision of his undying and passionate tribute to God with the simple goal of spreading the message “God is love.” And that’s it. He just wanted to share the love of God and teach people that if you accept Jesus into your heart, and repent your sins, you will be saved. 

  
Born 1931 in Vermont as one of six kids raised on a farm, Leonard dropped out of high school and later entered the Army in the Korean War. While out West visiting his sister in 1967, Leonard accepted Jesus into his life and became obsessed with sharing this new found love with others. Rejected and misunderstood in his mission to spread his knowledge, Leonard was struck with a plan as he watched a hot air balloon fly over head in Burlington one day. He would build his own hot air balloon to fly God’s message above for all to see and learn. Slowly but surely Leonard actually sewed together a patchwork hot air balloon while living in Arizona. Sadly, that hot air balloon never took flight to spread Knight’s message, but it did inspire the heart broken Leonard to make one last ditch effort to memorialize God’s Word before leaving the West and heading home. Thus Salvation Mountain was born. Heading over to Slab City, California where he once visited with his boss at the time, he returned to the area for what he thought would be a week, in order to leave some small monument behind for others to see. 

   
 Erected of his own blood, sweat and tears, the first monument was made of a cement-junk mixture covered by paint and literally crumbled to the ground due to the instability of the sand after four years. Never losing faith in his vision, he started over using a mixture of native adobe clay and straw, and continued working tirelessly for decades using over an estimated 100,000 gallons of (donated!) paint used to replicate the bright colors of his patchwork hot air balloon. As the mountain grew, it eventually topped out at 50 feet in height. At one point Imperial County tried to tear down the Mountain by scandalously attempting to prove it was filled with toxic waste but with the love and support of his followers, his beloved work was saved from demolition. He even went on to expand by including a “museum” of sorts. Always evolving, always adding on, knowing that he would never truly finish his creation. Knight actually lived in his truck on the property until his passing in February 2014. Oh if only I had gotten the chance to meet and talk to Leonard himself. What a joy that would have been!

  
 In 2002, Salvation Mountain received an official status as a National Treasure of the United States and is now being overseen by the non-profit organization, Salvation Mountain, Inc. who protect and maintain this spectacular gift that Knight hoped people from all over the world would come to see. It truly is something that everyone should experience for themselves. There is definitely a peaceful energy surrounding this place under the bright blue sky. Many people making their way around, using their “inside voices” as they ooh and ahh at every turn, taking countless photos. As I walked around, taking it all in… the energy of the bright colors, the flowers, trees, waterfalls, birds, and vast amount of random personal objects left by others…it’s almost overwhelming.  This magnificent masterpiece will persevere as a one of a kind work of art, piece of history, architectural marvel and true folk legend. The enormity of the Mountain only goes to show the level of undying life-long dedication and determination this man had in expressing himself through art. Now that’s impressive. Art IS life. Go out and find some. 

  

  

Mission San Luis Rey: The Grand Palace of California Missions

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IMG_3234Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, founded in 1798 as the last mission of Padre Fermín Francisco Lasuén, the successor to Father Junipero Serra, and the 18th of the 21 California Missions. 56 acres of open land with this splendid palatial Mission as it’s shining star and focal point. What a vision! Brilliant white against the deep blue skies of Oceanside California. Magnificent!

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Very friendly staff here so I stuck around and took an educational tour with a well versed retired teacher volunteer that proved to be very enjoyable and interesting. All the history, the struggles and the passion that fills the air here just fascinates me.

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The spectacular flowers everywhere and the rose gardens were absolutely bursting with color and here sits the first and oldest living Pepper tree in the State of California which was planted by seeds that were brought over from Peru in 1830.

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The lavanderia, the steps, the baths. So fascinating to see the actual areas where the people lived and took care of their day to day needs.

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The art, the exquisite sanctuary, and of course, my favorite, bells.

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Such an intricately designed compound. Really impressive! Parking is a breeze in the large lot as well. I feel like each Mission I visit is like meeting a new friend for the first time. Unique memories of each but always leaving me feeling the same kind of warm and peaceful serenity. Ahh, I love these Missions!