Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Abyss Estates







(photos: bottom, Bombay Bay, near the Salton Sea, with decaying trailer houses; and, top, an abandoned car + abode, Salton Sea)






For some reason, I've always been intrigued by places created by a reckless leap of the imagination, or of circumstances, and then abandoned, or almost so. Indeed I grew up in such a place, Sierra City, California, now population 225 but, during the Gold Rush, population 3,000. Astoundingly, people were actually considering the possibility of making nearby Downieville (population 500 now) the State Capital. All because of the Gold Rush, a spasm of history.

Therefore, the Salton Sea and environs intrigue me. It's a salty sea (or immense lake), as one might imagine, created by spillage from the Colorado River. Developers built houses around it and in nearby communities like Bombay Bay. This area is essentiallyin the desert of the far Southeast corner of California, but because a lake sprang up there, developers and promoters moved in quickly. Basically the whole thing fell apart. The area is like a bizarre modern ghost town, although some people do still live there, and bless their hearts.

Apparently, however, the Salton Sea is also home to extraordinary species of birds and other creatures, so much so that the California Legislature has attempted to provide money to save the Sea, whatever that means, and whatever that entails. Apparently one problem is that it's too salty now. There's at least one fine documentary on the place, and then a relatively recent movie was shot there. I think Val Kilmer's in it.



Abyss Estates

The salesman said, "Sir, this is a truly unique property.
People--I'm talking philosophers and poets--have talked
about it for years. Now you have a chance to buy a piece of it.
What's that? Yes, technically, you will disappear after you
take possession. Fascinating, huh? In our business, we
call it 'going all in.' It's a gambling term. But the sense

of privacy is unmatched. . . . Certainly, take your time
to decide. However--and I say this not to pressure you--
only a few parcels remain. You just don't see property
like this every day. But take your time. It's a big decision.
I can get you into Abyss Estates for 10 per cent down.
This thing's going to be an equity-machine. It's the Abyss.
I mean, there's no place like it, sir."

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

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