Here is Viktor.
He lives in this most amazing Californian commune in the high desert that I discovered three years ago. It’s near Joshua Tree and is known to locals as “Garth’s Place.” When you are doing travel journalism there are two thoughts you have in your head: “God, this is a crap place but I need to pay the rent so I’ll write about it.” Or: “God this is so amazing I don’t want anyone else to know about it so I’ll live on nuts and raisins and not write about it.” I’m doing a half-and-half thing regarding that latter statement because I’m showing you a picture of Viktor and this semi picture of me playing around the rocks in the early morning.
I’ve decided not to write professionally about Garth’s Place though. Some things should be secrets. This time I stayed for four nights, staying in one of the “Bird Houses” as he calls the sheds you sleep in at night. You don’t pay anything, although Garth appreciates donut and money donations. (There are some younger guys here at Garth’s, talking about chakras and dairy-free diets but real desert rats like Viktor appreciate carbs with pink icing). I bought them some deep-fried chocolate glazed donuts and a pink-iced donut from Palm Springs and Viktor said, “Wow, this is angel food,” and started reminiscing about a “Long John” donut that he’d eaten recently. Is there no end to the exoticism of California?
It could be the 1960s at Garth’s. Or 2000 BC. I go there and I sit on the boulders and all my cares and worries seem to drain in to the prehistoric boulders. You get stoned on the stones. That’s why everyone speaks a bit slower in the desert. You wake up at 6 o’clock because you don’t want to miss this:
Sunrise is an amazing light show. You do a bit of yoga, you sit on a rock a bit longer. Maybe for two of three hours. Time flies in the desert. (Olivia de Haulleville, Aldous Huxley’s niece, did a piece of art work I went to see on Saturday night. It was about time and she claimed at one point that, “time and money don’t exist,” although I wouldn’t go that far). And then, if you want to, you go and join the hippie old guys sitting on their couches in the middle of the desert. Viktor might be saying something like, “There are 12 dimensions and we’re living in the third or fourth dimension,” in the way that most old guys chat about the football results. Viktor is the only person who can say, “Wow, cosmic, man,” and not sound like a Trustafarian wanker trying to sound cool.
One morning he said, “There are billions of universes out there but this universe is a pretty good piece of property.”
Here’s a speck on that piece of property: sunset at Garth’s:
I’d assumed that Viktor had spent his life strumming a guitar on pavements around California but it turns out he made a lot of money in real estate. He also owned a chain of pawn shops in Orange County. Anyway, the point is that he knows a good piece of property when he sees it and Garth’s is the most incredible place. We go around all day saying how lucky we are to be here. One day, someone was saying about how the people down in Yucca Valley have miserable looks on their faces. Viktor piped up, “Oh, you mean they’re not following their bliss?” Paraphrasing mythologist and lecturer Joseph Campbell, right there in the desert.
Here is me in a Raider’s Of The Lost Ark-type cave, following my bliss: