From Swarm to Solitude

Here’s the thing. I really like people. It goes against the conventional vision of a writer — in fact, my wife (who works at a university with lots of student contact) and I joke that she’s an introvert in an extrovert’s profession, while I’m an extrovert in an introvert’s profession. Of course, if you’re a extroverted writer, Hollywood is the place to be — pitching and schmoozing are an essential part of the job description. And although I’ve been very productive over this past year, I have found myself missing the old friends I always see in LA and the new ones I always make at Sundance and Austin.

It’s true, I do cast a long shadow.

So, from the people-missing perspective, heading first to Vegas made sense — except at sunrise or in your hotel room, you’re never alone. (and given the loud noises coming from other rooms, even there you never feel alone!) Still, during a pandemic people are a large part of the problem, and Vegas has Petri dish potential. So on the afternoon of my second day, I opted to get out of town.

Ok, sometimes I cast a smaller one.

I found refuge an hour away in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada’s first. And although I didn’t have the place entirely to myself (as mentioned in a prior post, a bride and groom were there taking wedding photos), it was close enough. Shout out to my friend Sandra, who recommended both this and the Neon Museum.

Is it me, or does this look like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”?

The next afternoon I journeyed even further afield to Death Valley National Park. This is my third visit to the park, which I’ve always enjoyed. And although I could never live this far from the ocean, I do enjoy visiting the park’s beautiful desolation, especially in winter and spring when temperatures haven’t yet reached the OMG-it’s-hot-where-is-my-water-bottle-I’m-about-to-pass-out level. After a couple hours driving and a pit stop in Pahrump (which, you must admit, is a most excellent name), I reached the park boundary.

For Sale By Owner

Another hour of driving brought me to Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in the United States. (And props to the National Park’s Death Valley Twitter bio, which proclaims: “Hottest. Driest. Lowest.”). I spent a few minutes enjoying the salty splendor, and then the growing shadows summoned me to sunset.

Badwater to the Bone (The sign in the distance says “Sea Level”)

I considered Dante’s View, but that would have taken too long, so instead I stopped at Zabriskie Point and was glad I did.

Shout out to Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, VP and GM of the Pacific Coast Borax Company, as well as the possessor of what you must admit is also a most excellent name.

Once the sun was done, it became time for miles of driving through the desert dark. . .and although Clarence performed like a champ for most of my trip, much of Death Valley is outside cell phone range, which made Google Maps useless. Old dumb-phone me would have brought a back-up map, but new iPhone Adam did not. Lesson learned — always have a road map in the desert! Still, I eventually stumbled back into Pahrump, took another pit stop, and then headed on to Vegas for some final adventures which will be the subject of my next blog post. While we’re on the subject of parks, though, for a Hollywood project, I’m currently collecting crimes (ok, crime stories) that occur there. So if you have witnessed, committed, or just read about any crazy ones, please let me know!

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