Get Lost in Joshua Tree

photo of graffiti at Giant Rock in Landers California
Giant Rock. Mojave Desert. Landers, CA.

A lot of people know about Joshua Tree National Park. The nearby town of Joshua Tree, CA has a reputation for being the odd twist of desert hippy. It also doubles as a retirement home for celebrity artists. Rumor has it that Robert Plant owns a home in the area, as does Cyndi Lauper. I doubt anyone cares to look, which is partly why people find it attractive.

In the vicinity of Joshua Tree are the Mojave Desert towns of Landers and Twentynine Palms. Out there space and privacy is abundant. Clocks tick slower, and people are unapologetic about doing nothing. Don’t expect a lot of on-demand economy.

If a visitor has Los Angeles’esque patience, or none at all, then misery awaits. If that’s your jam, go to Palm Springs instead. In the Mojave, 5:00 PM opening means a 5:00 PM opening. Not 4:59. And 5:00 can mean 5:08. But definitely not a minute before 5:00. In the desert, everything is relative and late is early.

There isn’t a lot to do if you’re not into hiking, camping, dirt bikes, or photography. And that’s okay. Nobody is in Joshua Tree to jet set. It’s a place to slow down and take naps in the hammock, and then enjoy a cold beer.

Looking for inspiration here? Then you’ll need to include psychedelics. But no reason to search for such things, when going off-path in the spirit of adventure has its own rewards. 

Find yourself lost in Joshua Tree.

landscape photo of dirt road in the Mojave Desert Landers California
Dirt road to Giant Rock. BYOB and vision quest. Landers, CA.
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Glass Houses

I find the fetish for glass covered new buildings odd. Not being an architect, maybe I’m missing the point. Perhaps the new developments that I see in my travels are more efficient, when constructed this way.

If so, I still find them lacking in style and imagination. This aesthetic is common around the world now. There is no local identity or culture in them. It’s plain and boring.

It’s strange to me that we live in a world so consumed with the notion of privacy, that new office buildings and condominiums are seemingly nothing but window towers. People inside can watch passers-by on the street but would likely cry foul if the passers-by turned and looked at them.

This seems too insular and one-way to me, and it encourages distance and isolation in urban areas where vibrant public interaction is essential. New and old buildings are necessary. But Dublin, like many great cities, deserves better than repetitive glass houses.

 

Ireland: What the travel guides don’t publish

alternative travel photography Dublin Ireland
Dublin might be the make out capital of the world. PDA of sorts. North Docklands. Dublin, Ireland. ~ Photo by Paul Ottaviano, Oct. 2016.

Forget leprechaun and four-leaf clover kitsch. Nobody wears green in Dublin anyway, unless it’s a national rugby or soccer team match-day.

Put away the Instagram pics of Guinness and Temple Bar. No matter how appealing both are, there are, believe it or not, other Irish beers and parts-of-town.

You won’t see any cliché photographs of shepherds or rolling green landscapes with castles from me, either. And FFS, I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone. But more on kissing later.

So, let’s get to the point. Here is my list of rad things every indie-photographer traveler must experience while in beautiful Ireland, but Frommers and Lonely Planet probably won’t publish.

5. Watch a Garda Arrest in North Dublin at 1:00 AM

During my last night in Dublin, I lucked out. I witnessed an arrest on Talbot Street in the early morning, while walking around slightly inebriated with my Holga camera.

A homeless man was seen by three Garda in the act of a crime – I don’t know what specifically – and immediately two Garda, who were on foot, ran to him and took him down, but not over-aggressive. The third extended his baton and watched their backs.

They called for back-up immediately and a patrol car took the man away. There was no pepper spray, taser, or guns drawn. Nobody was shot. Nobody was hurt. No bystanders were caught-up in a controversy. There will not be a viral video.

The man’s female companion was distraught. But instead of arresting her or taking a hard-line, one of the Garda simply sat down with her and while calming her down, asked, “Okay dear, what is your name? How do you know this man?”

For all the problems in U.S. policing now, it was refreshing to see a civilized application of the law. I don’t know if Garda is always like this, but my faith in policing was somewhat renewed.

4. Ride Bus Eireaan – not a tourist bus – to Cork 

Here’s where it gets authentic. If you’re fortunate enough, you’ll sit next to three Irish MMA-bros and they’ll never stop talking. Even better, you won’t be able to understand a word they say.

At most you’ll be able to make something out of, “She haut ya, but pot belli too much drink ya… ha ha ha.”, while they oogle risqué Facebook posts on their iPad. Now imagine this for hours. It’s the best, no kidding. No tour will give you this.

3. While in Cork, be called a “weasel” by Uncle Seamus

There is The English Market in Cork, where tourists are funneled. But cross the river to the other side of town, and it’s gritty.

Oh, and across-the-river the street art is oh so good! Really, screw museums. Get with the times and join the revolution by just walking off-the-path streets.

Now if you’re so graced by the travel Gods while trekking The Other Cork, you’ll cross-paths with an old-timer stumbling out of a pub at 3:00 PM, who is looking for a good verbal punching bag.

He will look and sound something like a geriatric Popeye, complete with knit sweater and white beard. He won’t waste time, either.

“Look at the weasel!”, he might say to a local young man and father out walking with his family.

“Fuck you!”, will be the response.

Seamus will pause, and then recover by saying, “No, not you. I meant him. The Yanc (yank)!” In case you’re wondering, that will be you.

“Look at the Yanc weasel!”

Now if he persists, you’re in your moral right to properly give him the finger. This ought to end the conversation. If not, proceed at your pace back to the touristy English Market, where Uncle Seamus will get a stark reminder that it’s not 1930 anymore and he’ll turn around.

I love Uncle Seamus, because an encounter like this happens once every trip I take. I have no idea where it will come from, or who it will be. And while I’m sometimes “FU” immediately, I always remember it fondly. As long as nobody gets hurt, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s real. That said, make sure you’re in a civilized country or city before responding with, “FU”.

2. Go to a Bohemian FC Football Match at Dalymount Park in North Dublin

That’s soccer, yo. It’s a supporter owned team playing in the Irish first division Airtricity League of Ireland.

Dalymount Park is a small old timey delight right in the middle of a working class neighborhood. It’s dubbed the Home of Irish Football. It’s football’s past, nearing its twilight in the present.

You’ll be patted down as you enter the home side gate, because there was a fight with rival supporters of Shamrock Rovers during a June match. Don’t worry, you’ll survive.

You’ll also see some bad ass street art on your way into the ground.

Turnstiles are narrow. Hallways are also narrow, packed, and like a maze to the seats. Supporters will be in their bar, the GM will be milling around the hallway, and somehow you’ll zig zag your way to the stands. The excitement of a big match will be palpable, despite stadium capacity being small.

The pitch will be uneven and lovingly imperfect, much like Dublin and the country itself. Quality of play will be spirited and pacey, albeit not Barcelona. But who cares? It’s a local club, owned by local people, and with a roster of mostly Irish lads from Dublin. It’s real football.

Better yet, you can support the team, too.

1. Make Out with a Stranger on Night One, and Make a New Friend

Okay, so the kissing. Yes, I really think Dublin might be the make-out capital of the world. I can’t say this for certain, because I haven’t surveyed the international kissing scene. However, if you look around, especially at night, there will be a fair amount of smooching.

I don’t mean cheesy romantic while standing on the bridge at sunset stuff, either. I mean, 10:00 PM at a pub or 2:00 AM at an after-hours joint, and people making-out like they’re just a few steps from the twirl. They could be lovers, or perhaps more likely, they just met. They could be locals, ex-pats, or very likely jet lagged travelers on a pub crawl.

Do they actually do the dirty? Maybe, maybe not. In any event, it’s fun and seen as relatively innocent. And it’s seemingly everywhere. By the way, I’ve seen a fair amount in my day so naiveté long ago flew my nest. So, Make Out Capital? Yes, I really think so.

Extra Credit

  • Run off to Derry with a woman you just met. I didn’t do this, but Sam the Man from Ohio did. I hear it went well for him.
  • Go to a local pub that doesn’t serve Guinness, and have a conversation with an alleged ex-IRA man – no, wait – I mean, sit and listen while he shouts in your ear about his interesting and perhaps dubious history. It’s an experience.
  • Eat the Traditional Irish Breakfast in sandwich form at O’Donovans. It’s high calorie, high fat and delicious. No worries, just walk it off. Dublin is good for that.
  • Silent Disco. Seriously. No, really. It’s actually very fun.
  • Answer questions about your politics honestly. You will be asked, many times. Yes, their attention is on the States. Based on what I heard, they’re not Trump fans.

Ireland is great. Go there.