Tuesday, Oct. 15: Crown King, Arizona



The drive from Kingman to Crown King involved lots of dirt road driving to my personal playlist of Neil Young’s Greatest hits, with “Cowgirl in the Sand” on repeat.  The reflection of the sun through the clouds of dust and sand thrown up from the cars in the lead made the climb up the small mountain one way roads very scary, it was like driving through fog in the daytime.  In Joshua Tree, the trick to driving through dirt roads is not to go slow, but to go at least 20-30 miles an hour which makes for a smoother ride for some reason, but, on this road to Crown King, you have to pay attention and slow down for the meandering cattle.  I got teary eyed from seeing these majestic cows bathing in a watering hole, in real life, but I also almost had a heart attack when turning the corner of one mountain pass and almost hitting a giant black cow who was just hanging out on the other side, which would have really dented my SUV.  It would have been a good blog post though.  It would have been something like, “I hit a cow today, the cow’s ok, but now I’m in the hospital writing this blog post.” 


As we drove up the mountain, we stopped at each “Hotshots” piece by artists Saskia Jorda & Victor Sidy, which were set up along the way to the town of Crown King.  These bright yellow viewing stations, surrealistically standing out in the mountain landscape, framed the new growth areas that were once destroyed by the Gladiator Fire in 2012.  One Hotshot viewing station framed an area in front of a small lake where Angela de la Agua could be seen filming herself dressing in black shrouds, for part of her piece “This Desert, That Desert.”


We also stopped at another Souvenir collab set-up which offered a hanging bell take away for your rear view mirror at a crossroads station called Cleator.  This small stop along the road had a vintage rummage shop run by Don and a bar run by a guy named Cleater.  Cleator, the person, was a big man standing with a cane behind the bar.  He was kind enough to let folks use his bar bathroom, where there was a sign stating that “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down,” due to the water shortage, which makes sense but I hate peeing on other people’s pee.  But somehow, peeing outdoors behind boulders or creosote bushes, in the Joshua Tree desert, is perfectly fine and normal to me.  

We finally get to Crown King and meet everyone at the Mill Restaurant for dinner.  The restaurant is overwhelmed by the sudden influx of visitors during the week. We all order cheeseburgers, at the recommendation/request of our waitress and Mike, the owner and chef, visits our table personally and tells us that he’s out of fries but he has really good coleslaw and potato salad and has decided to “just throw shit our way” which is perfectly fine for us. 


Also, parked just outside the restaurant was artist Lars Fisk’s amazing “Self-Storage” mobile transforming piece, which looks perfectly legit parked between the apple trees.  Fisk’s piece can be spotted along the way at each event, morphed as either a VW van or as a self storage unit, complete with orange roll up garage doors.


After dinner we rush down to the Crown King Saloon to see Olav Westphalen’s performance piece “Even Steven.”  This piece consisted of a comedy routine by Westphalen which involved spraying pheromones at the audience and included his mimicking a professional improvisational dancer but with a few added adjustments by the artist.  At one point Westphalen had restricted the dancer’s movements by binding her arm and leg, making her wear galoshes, and having her carry a heavy bucket while she danced so that Westphalen could better imitate her dancing.  The piece also included a communist money share experiment where, through a survey answered by the viewers and calculated by yours truly and my iPhone, people were invited to take or leave money from a communal bucket that was being passed around so that everyone could have an equal amount of $50 in their pockets.  Shelly, one of the locals and Karaoke hosts at the bar was the first to put in $20 while yelling to the crowd to “Have faith, have faith.”  Then after Westphalen’s piece, Shelly announced that it was time for Karaoke! 



Karaoke was epic.  Please refer to the High Desert Test Sites 2013 instagram photos and videos and imagine for yourselves, the drunk artists and small town locals singing pop songs with intensity, sincerity, in perfect irony till the bar closed.  It was beautiful. Shelly kicked it off with a song called “Wet Pussy,” and it just got more amazing from then on.  The karaoke moment I will personally hold dearest to my heart was when Aurora and I sang R Kelly’s “Ignition” remix and got the drunk crowd to dance sexy. One of the last songs of the night ended in a group Karaoke scream along/mosh pit to the Violent Femmes song “Add It Up” chosen by HDTS crew member Brooks Hudson Thomas.  Then I walked back to my cabin and passed out smiling in my bunk bed.

Thank you to Shelly and her husband Kyle for hosting this amazing “community gap bridging” Karaoke experience.  When the electricity went off during Westphalen’s performance and between karaoke songs, Shelly and Kyle would say “Welcome to Crown King!”



The downhill road to Arcosanti.