on the satellite view of google earth, a quaint little strip of greenish patchwork grows out of the black blot that is the salton sea. If you take a closer look, you’ll see a strange brown block in the middle. this is thermal, california.
back on land it musn’t seem that strange. this is, after all, the little piece of riverside twilight zone that stretches from the freshly baked freshly botoxed skin of platinum-blond old people and their peackock-feathered rental flats in palms springs to the trampled dirt of (mtv)world-famous coachella to a place called mecca and the miscarried motel paradise of the salton city, awash with dead fish.
people around here know that california livin’ isn’t quite what it’s made out to be.
and yet there’s something a bit shocking about a trailer-park slum in southern california. no sewage, no electricity, and basically living in a dum is something you would expect from a mexican bordertown shanty. but not on this side. maybe it’s shocking because it brings things uncomfortably close to home.
the l.a. times reports:
“like most of their neighbors in the sprawling, ramshackle oasis mobile home park, the aguilars have no heat, no hot water. on cold nights, the family of eight stays warm by bundling up in layers of sweaters and sleeps packed together in two tiny rooms…bathing is a luxury that requires using valuable propane to boil gallons of water. so the farmworker clan spends a lot of time dirty... jose aguilar, a wiry 9-year-old, has found a way around the bath problem. he just waits until dinner. "my mom makes frijoles," he said, "then I take a bath in that water."
“exactly how many people live in the trailer parks is unknown, but social workers estimate tens of thousands. the biggest park, desert mobile home park, or "duroville," (in spanish, duro means hard or tough) has more than 4,000 residents and can be seen off california 195 near thermal. Others are on private property and virtually invisible to passing motorists.”
these half-legal “trailer parks”, featuring special amenities such as faulty life-threatening electric wiring and views of a toxic-fumes-emission car-battery-and-paint-can-burning dump, persist because otherwise thousands of farmers would be left homeless. and that’s no good for all those green little patches you see surrounding the place, growing all sorts of goodies like fresh fruit or asparagus. so in the mean time, it seems, 15-year-old mothers and carcinogens will just have to do.