Saturday, April 14, 2007


Don Ho died tonight, bringing to the forefront a recent topic of conversation -- famous songs that I don't really know. I've heard "Tiny Bubbles" many times, I'm certain, but I couldn't hum the tune or sing it for you if you offered money. And this is after someone played it for me an hour ago.

Ditto, last night, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" came up -- and again, I'm sure I've heard it millions of times -- but I can't hear it in my head. Maybe this is a problem for Oliver Sacks.

* * *

Since reading "Crack in the Edge of the World," I've developed a kind of weird fascination. Relatively, perhaps, it's not that strange -- I know a girl who's fascinated by Vicks, which strikes me as considerably more bizarre -- but I've become moderately obsessed by the Salton Sea.

It's just an aside in Winchester's book -- an inland California sea created by human error, that became a failed resort, a wildlife refuge, and an environmental disaster. I knew little about it before reading "Crack" (actually, nothing at all; my only points of reference were the film, "The Salton Sea," which I've never seen, and the Hot Snakes song, "Salton City," which is pretty great). After reading those few paragraphs, I couldn't get it out of my mind.

And so:

#14 -- "Greetings From the Salton Sea" by Kim Stringfellow

This traces the beginnings and decline of the sea, and goes into efforts to reverse/halt some of the damage. It's quite good -- I feared something overly scholarly/technical, but my shattered attention span was rapt throughout (granted, again, this may be due to the recent obsession).

It's filled with photographs, which are shocking and haunting. Much of the area -- now abandoned -- looks like scenes of present-day Chernobyl, desolate and forgotten. Dead fish and birds, empty and ruined buildings. It's quite shocking that this is just a couple hours from San Diego, rather than in the shadow of an abandoned Soviet nuclear plant.

Didn't do anything to curb the obsession -- I've actually, quite seriously, been toying with the idea of taking a few days to go out there. For some reason, this really is something I need to see.

For further reference: here's the book's website. Lots of photos here. Watch out for the naked dude.

And then, the Salton Sea Authority -- those in charge of restoring the area.


Nanuk of the North said...

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, of the Great Lake they call Gitchu Gumee.
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead, when the gales of november come early!

Yes, it's true, Canadians must be able to recite Gordon Lightfoot songs by heart. It's the law.

Elk said...

Canadians AND Minnesotans. :-} Greg, it really is an amazing song.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you go out there, at least you can get a good huevos rancheros breakfast in Mecca -- look for any diner with a lot of dusty pickup trucks parked out front. And don't forget the date shakes (no, it's not a 20-something malady) in Indio.