I’m sitting on a rock. A small fire sparks and smolders. Smoke drifts like my thoughts. I walked today. There are cliffs and huge boulders that I could see, a few kilometers away from my campsite. I packed water, some fruit and stepped out into the desert. No path. No plan. Periodically, I stopped and looked behind me. I marked my position with the hills. Nothing lived and nothing moved except me. No insects, no animals, no birds, no life. Everything was dried and crunched underfoot. Even the cactus and Yucca spines seemed like green bones to me. The earth was dry. A deep -seated thirst. It was like the ground longed for something it could no longer recall. I scraped away the surface layer of dirt from the shaded side of a huge Yucca tree and sat down. I drank. Silence. It was the loudest sound. My mind wandered. I felt like I was on another planet devoid of humanity. No nagging. No wagging poisonous tongues. People looked better before I got to know them. I mumbled to myself and chuckle under my breath. The sound was startlingly loud. I walked for hours. I thought of the Arizona desert pipes and the remoteness that some of the skateboarding legends spoke of. Desolate. I thought of the Nude Bowl and how great it was. Greatness casts a long shadow. I thought of my love for skateboarding. I eventually made my way back to camp. Very few people were camping nearby. It was in the nineties all day and few found it comfortable. I thought, the hotter it is, the less people I have to see. The sun set over my campsite at Joshua Tree National Park.
Sometime during the night, I awoke. I thought that I heard something. I slipped into my shoes and stepped outside the tent. The sky was lit up like Christmas time with every star that ever existed… I think I stood for an hour just looking, until my neck hurt. Wonder. Dawn followed and I’d already started a fire, ate and was having coffee. My thoughts were on breaking camp and driving to the Nude Bowl. Everyone knows its story. 1980’s. It was found, it was ground and all it was, is not around. Buried. Nude Bowl legend has it that, a non-skating partygoer didn’t play nicely one night. Someone got high, someone was stabbed and this drug-fueled behavior led to the pool’s burial. This was years ago now… Regardless, I needed to look at it again. The air was cold. I nosed the truck onto the asphalt road that split the park. Exit.
Nude Bowl. I parked near the construction entrance and sat still, watching. Sometime after the pools burial in about 2004, a construction firm had developed the area in preparation for what looked like housing tracts. The area was graded and a huge wall was erected around the property. I had been up to the Nude Bowl in January of 2009. It was raining and cold that day. There were excavators, tools and construction office trailers present. I had to climb around one of the fences that morning. On this day, there were no trucks, no trailers, no equipment and no fences. The wall still stood and meandered up over the hill. The grading appeared as it was left: incomplete. The equipment was long gone and the gate hung slack and open. I locked the truck. An air of abandonment covered everything. I guess funding had ceased. I shrugged and hitched my pack up higher on my back. I began the long walk up the hill. Walking allows me to see things. Old tires, shoes, paint rollers, shotgun shells, trash and bones of things long dead. I clambered up over a huge dirt mound and saw what appeared to be a car transmission sticking out of the dirt… I recalled the rutted road up to the concrete slab near the pool and Andy Macdonald driving his Honda Civic about 5 MPH the entire way up. I drove my own car up there several times. It was a slow and painful process.
As I neared the concrete slab, broken glass glittered. Not to put too fine of a point on it… but there are quite a bit of broken beer bottles up there. The whole hillside below the pool shimmered in the early morning sun. It was striking actually. Trash was everywhere. Some of it defied logic. I saw an old computer, a child stroller and a huge school desk. I saw VHS tapes splintered and scattered. The tape itself was unspooled and tangled. Billowing. The pool was suddenly there under my feet. As my eyes took in the scene, I felt hollow. Memories rushed back. Bacon, Rhino, Andy, Reuler… The pool was buried. Someone had come since my last visit in 2009 and cleared away the coping a little bit. The pool’s outline was a pale shadow of its former glory.
I sat on the deck by the shallow stairs and ate an apple. I sipped water and thought. In the silence that reigned, I recalled the half-dozen times that I’d been to the Nude Bowl. I couldn’t recall a single unhappy person. I couldn’t think of one thing that wasn’t positive. It was terribly sad in so many ways. To think that such an inspiring place could be relegated to utter ruin was a tragedy. I peered around. Dust and decay. The desert was growing up and reclaiming the entire place. Concrete was buckled and cracked. Dirt and gravel were in abundance. I stood and urinated on a broken piece of hotel wall. I started down the hill without a backwards glance. I felt empty and old.
On the long walk down, I pondered what to write. Perhaps I should remember all that the Nude Bowl gave to us. A meeting place. Gatherings. The family of skateboarding. Good times. Parties. A legacy… As I climbed into the truck, I realized that everything that the Nude Bowl meant to everyone, was taken away with them when they left… the fun, the friendship and the good times. I suppose we can’t ask for anything more. Long live the Nude Bowl. Thank you to Stephane Noridal and Chris McCaw for the images. Skate- Ozzie