Wednesday, January 5, 2011
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As you know I'm fascinated by relics and ruins. But during my recent trip to Mojave I found an even more sublime encounter with the detritus of urbanity: dead cities that were never born. This is one of them, discovered using Google Maps to chart my path across the desert. I was drawn to this grid of streets just north of Mojave and West of California City [here's a link]. I had to see what all that geography looked like up close.
So I found my way to this site, testing the suspension of our new (used) car in search of the grid. It's a strange thing to encounter these lonely roads, which from above resemble an Excel document yet are actually rutted dirt paths. Sometimes I'd see piles of stones marking four corners of a future homestead. Other times I'd spot a beer can or the ashy remains of a campfire. But I saw no signs of life. Still Google Maps confirmed that I was driving on streets! Broadway, Spring, Lemon, even a Main Street.
From time to time I'd roll past a wooden marker. Otherwise I could only imagine. Was I on bustling Church Street, or had I slipped into one of Excel City's lesser traveled avenues (marked by number alone). I could be wrong, but this looks like one of those bursts of speculation that arose periodically in the last century. Cities in the desert waiting to bloom. Using the language of William Gibson: "a tomorrow that never was." No homes, no families. Just dirt roads and the occasional Joshua tree.
Come to California's beautiful Excel City! A glorious grid in the middle of the Mojave Desert. A city of tomorrow that exists in overhead view alone.