Given that my last photo calendar was a critically acclaimed success, with sales in excess of a dozen copies, I’ve decided to put one together for the coming year, which I am given to understand has been designated “2011.”
I’ve decided to collect a dozen plus one (the cover) of my images featuring one of the most obvious but not-always-remarked-on features of the desert: that great inverted bowl we call “the sky.”
You can also leaf through a low-res version of the calendar at that page, and plus! You can see (and even buy high-quality prints of, should you wish) higher-res versions of the relevant images each on their own page: January,
I confess October is a special favorite of mine, though officially I love them all equally.
So I was sitting in Searchlight, Nevada at the Nugget, talking to the bartender, and this guy comes in with a big fat Labrador retriever, walks up to the bar. He says to the bartender, “My dog wants to buy a round for the house.”
The bartender gives him the hairy eyeball, then looks at the dog. The dog wags his tail happily, then barks. Bartender says “We don’t run tabs. Your dog’ll have to pay up front.” You know, thinking he’s called the guy’s bluff.
But the guy leans over the dog, slides his collar around — which I suddenly notice has huge gems on it, rubies and emeralds set in gold — zips open a compartment and pulls out a small roll of thousand-dollar bills. He peels one off, hands it to the bartender, and puts the rest back into the dog collar. The house gets a round while the waitress runs over to the casino teller to get change.
Dog comes over to me, and I pet him for a second, the man watching me closely — making sure I don’t pocket the collar, most likely. I look up at him and start to ask but he cuts me off. “Why’s my dog so rich, right? That’s what you wanna know?” I nod.
He takes a sip of the beer the bartender hands him, sets it back on the bar. “Couple years back I was heading to Vegas on Route 95. It was only about ten am, but it was already hot as hell, 120 degrees. I’m doing maybe 65, not in any hurry and right around the turnoff to Laughlin I see this guy, skinny as a rail, running back and forth in the desert all confused. I figure he’s lost and he’s sure as hell gonna die by afternoon so I pull over, back up about a hundred yards to where I saw him. When I get out of the car he comes charging up to me, whimpering and crying, scared out of his wits. No collar, no tags, nothing.”
“Someone dumped him there?” I ask.
“Yeah, probly. Anyway, I’m in no position to take care of a dog, you see — lived in a trailer back then, no room — so I get my cell phone and call animal control. I tell them I found this guy and can they come get him.
“The woman on the phone asks if I’m sure he doesn’t belong to a neighbor or something, so I say ‘Look, lady, there’s nothing out here but tortoises and creosote. He’s in the middle of the desert, he has no idea what he’s doing out here, and he just clearly doesn’t belong.’” He shakes his head, takes another long swig off the beer.
“So what happened?” I ask, a little impatiently.
He wipes his mouth on his sleeve, swallows. “Feds gave him a two billion dollar solar grant.”
I am thinking of, and missing, some who have passed.
The love of my life (four-foot division):
Jonathan “Basketball Jonathan” Montague, a street fixture for decades in Berkeley and a frequent visitor at the Ecology Center.
Bill Stack, who took me in as a teenage drifter and taught me how to play guitar.
The two tortoises killed so far by construction at the Ivanpah SEGS site.
My elders in the political and activist world: Jake Kramer, Charlie Haynie, Ed Powell, David Brower, Hazel Wolf, Harriet Allen, Frank Cedervall, Dave Dellinger, Igal Roodenko, Jim Peck, Mitch Snyder.
No grandiose conclusion here, except that I am privileged to have known them all and more than them, and I am grateful, and I wish that I could talk with them again.