The once famed “desert miracle” is now just a mirage in California’s desert caused by an error made in 1905 in which the Colorado River overflowed into the dried up Salton Sink. Deemed a modern miracle it became the hotspot for Hollywood stars in the 1950s as there were newly resorts built on its beaches. But as the water increased in salinity and over run with pollution and runoff from the nearby farms Salton Sea fell from fame, becoming the the resort area equivalent of Lindsay Lohan.
Before going to Bombay Beach I had been told by some local Southern Californians not to go anywhere near the place because they’ve never seen anything so depressing and the only people who lived there did meth. Upon arrival I was greeted by exactly who I had been told would be there. A youngish girl barely standing outside of the only store in town in a ripped, somewhat purple tank top and jean shorts which could hardly be considered shorts. I couldn’t quite tell if she was going say something to me but her disinterest didn’t hurt my ego. Either way I was glad she turned away and allowed me to walk into the bomb shelter of a store.
The place was what I imagined what a store would look like if the zombies had come and gone, poorly lit with very little on the shelves but cat toys and a variety of old birthday cards. It was a real sight to see that the coolers along the side wall were almost fully stocked with fresh bottles of Coca-Cola products. I talked to the shopkeeper who had left San Diego for a simpler life, which she most definitely found.
After leaving the shop I opted for the self guided driving tour over any other means of “sight seeing” for fear of running into zombies or the lookalike inhabitants of the town. There were trailers of every kind surrounded by chainlink fence that enclosed old beach chairs, a golf cart and boats which were likely left behind when the population fell significantly in the 90s. Golf cart is the only method of transportation since all of the gas stations on the way out of town have been abandoned like the motels that they sit beside.
The road out of town is lined with motels, restaurants and stores like “Skip’s liquor, beer and wine” which also sells bait, tackle, firewood and other camping materials. Skip’s had a hand painted sign with turtle in a fishing hat that had a beer can in its hand along with what appeared to be merchandise and some posters in the front window. It didn’t look too bad but the fact that its security gates were closed and store dark on a Tuesday morning says otherwise. Next-door is the “World Famous International Banana Museum” which to my great disappointment was also closed.
On the bright side the “Dale’s Fourth Annual Jam” looked not to bad and unfortunately I was a couple months late for it but the sign was the newest thing for 20 miles and looked pretty official. The site was neatly fenced had uniform folding chairs, a tractor tire, some sheet metal alligators, a portapotty with the door hanging off and two traffic cones aka everything needed for a great party. I guess Bombay Beach has their own J to the R-O-C, knowwhatimsayin?
Anytime I read paradise on anything made me laugh and think that it ought to be in quotations because this place is definitely not. The smell of rotting fish and polluted water are enough to make you stay in the car and head back toward Mecca — the ironically named town at the head of Salton Sea, nearest Palm Springs— because it is ever bad, indescribably bad, an article from Vice said “It’s like a fish market at the end of a long summer day. Only instead of keeping the fish on ice, this fish market keeps them on piles of diarrhea.” and funny enough, it exactly what I thought when I got there. Driving in it looks pretty nice, blue water and white beaches, of course this is paradise! But once you get up close you see that the brown water appeared blue from the reflection of the clear desert sky and the beaches white from the pileup of decaying fish skeletons.
Everything I heard sounded so bad that I had to visit for myself, take my word for it, it really does look like the doomsday clock hit 12.