Forgotten America: Trona, CA

Nestled in the Searles Valley about 70 miles southwest of Death Valley National Park lies the fascinating desert community of Trona, California, which straddles San Bernardino and Inyo counties. Situated in Searles Valley, Trona was built upon a promising wealth of natural mineral resources discovered in 1862 by John Searles. Named after trisodium hydrogendicarbonate dehydrate, Trona was developed in 1914 to accommodate a growing workforce for the booming mining industry. In 1974, the corporation was bought out, and production diminished. By 1982, more than half of the employees were laid off, people moved away, but some residents remained—with vested interests in SVM and the community. Trona’s population once peaked at around 7,000 in “boom times,” but Trona is now home to around 1,000 residents. Trona’s economic heartbeat remains Searles Valley Minerals, which continues to mine and process brine solutions harvested from the Searles Lake basin, although in lesser quantities. Products made by SVM include boric acid, sodium carbonate, sodium sulfate, borax, and salts—used in a wide array of industries in products like dye, detergents, and window glass.

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We stumbled upon Trona by accident, heading toward Death Valley National Park. We had checked into our dingy Ridgecrest motel room in the afternoon following a long drive from Los Angeles. We knew that the park would be at least a 90-minute drive and we wouldn’t make it, but we still wanted to take advantage of the remaining daylight and see what adventures might await us in the Mojave Desert. We took highway 178, which snakes northeast from Ridgecrest toward Death Valley. There isn’t much to see, just vast expanses of land with a wall of distant mountains, desert grasses and scrub brush as far as the eye can see.

As we approached Trona (30 miles northeast from Ridgecrest), the landscape shifted, characterized by bumpy salt mounds and dry, cracked earth. We stopped to more closely examine the textures of the land—the crumbling salty hills were unlike anything we had seen before. The bone-dry Searles Valley basin stretched out for miles. There is a public rest stop in Trona, which became a useful stopover for what became several passes through the town. In front of the rest stop is a California Historical Landmark commemorating John Searles’ landmark borax discovery in 1862.

There was only one feature of Trona highlighted in our Lonely Planet guidebook: The Trona Pinnacles, an unusual geological feature overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Over thousands of years, over 500 tremendous tufa spires formed out of the Searles Lake bed, creating stunning, almost otherworldly formations. Faintly visible from the main road, a lone BLM sign indicated the Pinnacles to be five miles down a dirt road, also admonishing travelers that ATVs or vehicles with 4 wheel-drive are recommended. My boyfriend and I (not wanting to miss an opportunity to explore) braced ourselves and went forth with our rented Chevy Malibu. We rattled slowly along the bumpiest dirt road I’ve ever experienced, and although we didn’t make it all the way to the Pinnacles, we did get to see them and marvel at their beauty from a distance. It felt like we were visiting another planet (fitting, since the Pinnacles have been the backdrop for iconic films such as Planet of the Apes and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier). The sun was dipping below the horizon on our way back, making for an anxious drive and some beautiful photographs during the so-called “magic hour” right before sundown. A string of abandoned railway cars stretched along the landscape, seemingly going on forever, attached to nothing.

The most memorable feature of Trona (aside from its unique geological landscape and rich mineral resources) is the visible decay of the town itself: abandoned dwellings marked with graffiti, rusted-out automobile and tractor frames, collapsing outbuildings of varying size and shape, an array of under-maintained stores, businesses, and churches. Later research told us that the reason for the abandoned structures is due to their containing asbestos—too hazardous to inhabit and too costly to destroy. So they are left to the elements and vandals, hollow monuments of a town that once thrived many decades ago. Hulking over the town is the industrial sprawl of Searles Valley Minerals, its maze of pipes and smokestacks obviously working despite being in dire need of repairs and updates. Also noteworthy: Trona still has almost a dozen churches—a feature that speaks to the hallmarks of community and tradition to which Trona seems holding steadfast.

Trona cannot be called an outright ghost town. It boasts its own high school (home to the Trona Tornadoes) with an infamous all-dirt football field dubbed “the pit,” which once captured the attention of The New York Times. Its graduating class in 2015 was a mere fourteen students. SVM still employs most of the town with its mineral mining and processing operation. Save for the Pinnacles, Trona isn’t what you’d call pretty or scenic—it’s at turns ugly, scary, and sad. But it’s also uniquely fascinating, offering passersby a glimpse of lives very different from our own, people fiercely holding onto what makes their community special. Despite its forlornness, Trona still manages to evoke a certain feeling: One of toughness, solidarity, and authentic “America,” built on the promise of industry and hope.

References:

Tiny desert community of Trona hopes to rise from the ashes
Forgotten destinations: Visting Trona by Natasha Petrosova 
Trona, California: Glimpses of a boom town gone bust

kiss me hard before you go

Kiss me hard before you go
Summertime sadness
I just wanted you to know
That baby, you’re the best

I got my red dress on tonight
Dancing in the dark in the pale moonlight
Got my hair up real big beauty queen style
High heels off, I’m feeling alive

Oh, my God, I feel it in the air
Telephone wires above are sizzling like a snare
Honey I’m on fire, I feel it everywhere
Nothing scares me anymore

I’ve got that summertime, summertime sadness
S-s-summertime, summertime sadness
Got that summertime, summertime sadness
Oh, oh oh

I’m feelin’ electric tonight
Cruising down the coast goin’ ’bout 99
Got my bad baby by my heavenly side
I know if I go, I’ll die happy tonight

femme fatale

A femme fatale ( /ˌfɛm fəˈtæl/ or /ˌfɛm fəˈtɑːl/; French: [fam fatal]) is a mysterious and seductive woman[1] whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.

She is an archetype of literature and art. Her ability to entrance and hypnotize her victim with a spell was in the earliest stories seen as being literally supernatural; hence, the femme fatale today is still often described as having a power akin to an enchantress, seductress, vampire, witch, or demon.

The phrase is French for “deadly woman”. A femme fatale tries to achieve her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure. In some situations, she uses lying or coercion rather than charm.

She may also make use of some subduing weapon such as sleeping gas, a modern analog of magical powers in older tales. She may also be (or imply that she is) a victim, caught in a situation from which she cannot escape; The Lady from Shanghai (a 1947 film noir) is one such example. A younger version of a femme fatale would be called a fille fatale, or “deadly girl.”

in my head, there’s a greyhound station

1.
Where do you intend to go with your dirty dress?
Lead my skeptic sight to the table and the light.

2.
The cities grow
The rivers flow
Where you are, I’ll never know
But I’m still here
If you were right and I was wrong
Why are you the one who’s gone
And I’m still here

Maybe tonight
It’s gonna be alright
I will get better
Maybe today
It’s gonna be okay
I will remember

I held the pieces of my soul
I was shattered and I wanted you to come and make me whole
Then I saw you yesterday
But you didn’t notice
And you just walked away
Cause everything you wanted me to hide
Is everything that makes me feel alive


3.
Skipping beats
Blushing cheeks
I am struggling
Daydreaming
Bed scenes in the corner cafe
And then I’m left in bits recovering tectonic, tremblings
You get me every time


4.
Cause in my head there’s a greyhound station
Where I send my thoughts to far off destinations
So they may have a chance of finding a place
where they’re far more suited than here

And I cannot guess what we’ll discover
When we turn the dirt with our palms cupped like shovels
But I know our filthy hands can wash one another’s
And not one speck will remain

5.
We smiled so bright the sun went down
Rose above the maddening crowd
We lit the streets with the sweetest glow
We held the globe and made it turn
Wandered through the universe
The men of science observed through telescopes

1. jimmy eat world (table for glasses), 2. vertical horizon (i’m still here), 3. imogen heap (goodnight and go), 4. death cab for cutie (soul meets body), 5. a fine frenzy (lifesize)

blessed for good.

—-

How could you not already have felt blessed for good,
having these last days spoken your whole heart to him,
who spoke his whole heart to you, so that in the silence
he would not feel a single word was missing?
How could you not have slipped into a spell,
in full daylight, as he lay next to you,
with his arms around you, as they have been,
it must have seemed, all your life?
How could your cheek not press a moment to his cheek,
which presses itself to yours from now on?
—-

(from “How Could You Not” by Galway Kinnell) ♥

This is pretty much my favorite song in the entire universe ever. The best songs are simple and beautiful. Judith Durham’s voice! My God.

“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.” — John Keats

“To be empty and be filled with darkness.
To be empty and be filled with light.
To be full and give birth to the impossible.

To trust?
To love?
Myself first.
Trust me (it’s the only way).
Watch the sunflowers bloom,
spilling seeds into our hands;
a feast for the eyes and tongue.
I bloom in trust.
I trust the color yellow:
desire, fulfilled–
O, endless desire
empty/full empty/full.
I trust my desire,
endlessly.”

(quoted from the collection of poems by Alma Luz Villanueva – “Desire”)

she’s got style: Emily Weiss

Emily Weiss once appeared on The Hills (season 3) as the “New York super-intern” who upstaged Whitney and Lauren. Today, she’s a fashion editor at  Vogue as well as the editor and founder of IntoTheGloss.com, a unique, magazine-esque beauty blog that dishes out upscale makeup and skincare what-have-you with WASP-like elegance. I was amazed by Emily on The Hills – the way she carried herself was so poised and graceful. Then I discovered ITG and I was hooked after reading a bit of what she wrote, as well as in interviews I gleaned from other websites. She’s striking, classic and has a fresh modern style. She’s also the pretty one. The smart one. And the really fucking stylish one. Bitch. I’m tempted to hate her…but her style speaks for itself.


Images above and below via Tales of Endearment.


“When it comes to her fashion sense, Emily describes her style as ‘a hodgepodge of romantic vintage dresses and more tailored new things.” She loves a sharp jacket, can’t live without her four rings, wishes she had been young in the 1940’s – “that silhouette works really well for me.'” (interview quote via Tales of Endearment)


Image via Vogue.com – Five Days, Five Looks, One Girl – I love the matte berry lip with the subdued gray wrap and minimal makeup.


Above: Those bleached jeans – eep! – to die! Weiss is sartorial heaven here. Hers is the style that seems almost too Parisian to be real, perfectly authentic, not too loud but unquestionably chic.


Image via Vogue.com


Image via New York Magazine & Tales of Endearment.

Emily’s a huge deal in the fashion and beauty industry but she doesn’t really have a “buzz” like certain other females who shared screenspace on The Hills. I like that she’s refined and that you basically have to be a fashion/beauty insider to know who she is. Here’s a little more about Emily, for those who don’t.

  • Emily attended NYU. She interned at Teen Vogue on the east coast, and at W and Chanel.
  • She has a strong aversion to exercise (but you’d never know it).
  • If you look at photos of Emily, she’s not always plastered in makeup. Minimalist works.
  • Emily is always shopping for vintage dresses – particularly from the 1940s. Mix them up with an unexpected proportion, like her big platform wedges from Celine – it totally updates the look.
  • She loves thrifting vintage items from Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel.
  • Emily isn’t really into crazy colors and patterns; she instead sticks to classics like black, navy, taupe and white…although she does throw in a pop of print or a splash of red now and then.
  • Style secret? Emily buys all of her clothing a size larger, because nothing is more unflattering than too-tight garments. You’re better off with some drape to spare.
  • Her secret to glowing skin? Lots of moisturizer, even when you have oily skin (I do this! I’m not as glowy, but I’m not on Vogue’s payroll, either). And use gentle products.
  • Emily also mists with Caudalie Beauty Mist, which smoothes skin, tightens pores and provides an instant burst of radiance while stimulating microcirculation (yes please)!


Now I’d never dog on my girls Lauren, Whitney or Audrina, but Emily Weiss’ style is kind of like tasting fois gras after you’ve been eating Cheetos. Just doesn’t compare. ♥

w@h lookbook o1.

Some style inspiration.


Karen Elson for Lula Magazine. Probably my favorite redhead ever. I love the styling of this shoot…and everything Lula prints, generally.


Prada’s ombre clutch that SJP “Carried” in the first (and only one worth watching) Sex and the City movie.


Electric blue nails. Anytime, anywhere.


Erin Lucas from The City. She makes me want to get bangs again.


Flowers in the hair. via Imma Darling


Wildfox Couture’s “let me eat cake” Marie Antoinette tee…a shout out to one of my favorites. Also I love cake.


Lauren Conrad, always.


Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells

Until next time… xo