Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label Zombieland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zombieland. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


This is a good story, maybe even too good, though it’s a true one.

Even if you’re only a fringe member of the “urban explorer community” (and they don’t come much more fringe than me), you still get to hear about cool, ruined places where a psychogeographer might want to walk.  And I’d heard from more than one source about the abandoned federal prison outside of Boron, in the California desert.  The place had been the Boron Air Force Station before it was a prison, and by all accounts it was now some kind of radar outpost, though nobody seemed sure whether it was manned or unmanned.

It’s not exactly a secret location.  Anybody driving up the 395 can see the white radar globe sitting up on top of the hill, and as I found out last Thursday when I made the expedition, there’s a crumbling but perfectly serviceable road leading up to it.

I never get my hopes up too high when heading for places like this.  For one thing I thought the site might be all locked up, and although in general I’m not averse to hopping over a fence or ignoring a few no trespassing signs, I was aware that this was the American military I was dealing with here.

We drove up the road (yes, my lovely wife was with me - I take her to all the best places) expecting to come to a barrier or fence or at least a keep out sign, and we found none of these.  We arrived at a big, wide empty parking lot in front of a building that in other circumstances we might have thought had once been a motel.  We parked and began to wander.  The place looked thoroughly deserted, though a couple of fighter jets were flying in parallel high above us.  We made a couple of weak jokes about drones.

Of course nothing was signposted, but there wasn’t much that looked very prison-like, certainly no cells and no bars, and there were a few buildings that looked like dining or recreation halls.  People had tried to make gardens here and there, there was something that looked like an outdoor stage, there were squash courts.  

I’ve since done some research and found out this was a prison for white collar criminals, or at least for criminals with very, very good lawyers.  Prisoners could have simply walked out if they’d wanted to, but there were few escapees.  They’d have had to face the open desert, and if recaptured they’d have been thrown into real  prison.

There was also a small abandoned and ruined housing development on the site; what had been homes, first for the guys in the air force, and then for prison staff.  Here the old post-apocalyptic movie feel was unavoidable and many before us had been unable to avoid it too, painting various movie-based graffiti around the place.

And it occurred to me that the post-apocalyptic world (should there be one) will be very much as seen in the movies, because that’s how people learn so much of their behavior.  This world would be just like The Walking Dead or Zombieland because people have no other source of reference for post-apocalyptic etiquette.

In general the graffiti around the place were surprisingly restrained, surprisingly low on obscenity.  There were some some fabulous metal buildings and Quonset huts scattered around (I’m sure I must have told you about my love of metal buildings). 

And on the wall inside the one above there was this thing with sunlight shining in through those holes, which may or may not have been bullet holes. 

And as we were admiring this bit of art it seemed that World War Three started.  There was a bang, as loud as any bang I’ve ever heard, coming from all directions at once.  The building shook down to the concrete foundation, and the metal amplified the sound, and if I hadn’t been paralyzed with fear I might  well have thrown myself to the ground.  They were on to us it seemed.  They were using the metal shed for target practice.  We were terrified. But although there was so much noise, we realized more or less immediately that there was no explosion, no destruction: the shed and we were all perfectly intact.  And then a second after that we realized that we hadn’t been struck my some form of dark weaponry, but that one of the jet fighters up above us had just gone through the sound barrier.  It was a sonic boom that had hit us and the building.  A word to the wise here: do not stand inside a metal building when a plane is about to break the sound barrier overhead.  Good advice, I think, though not always easy to apply.

And shortly after that we realized we were not alone in any sense.  We saw a couple of unmarked SUVs driving down the hill, through the site and away.  They may not have seen us, but they’d certainly have seen our car.  We thought maybe they just didn’t care.  And when we got closer to the radar tower we saw, behind some serious fencing, there were a couple of guards in military uniform.  They certainly saw us and I wondered if it might be a good idea to go and talk to them, to show that we were innocents, but we decided against it.  We had been there walking around for an hour and a half, maybe more.  We reckoned it was probably time to leave.

We were nearly back at the car when a small civilian pick up truck came down the hill, and the driver stopped, stuck his head out the window and called to us.
          “You can’t be here,” he said, “This is federal property.  You’re trespassing.”
         “Oh, we didn’t see any ‘no trespassing’ signs.”
         “No, they got stolen a couple of days ago.”
          He didn’t laugh, and neither did we until after he’d driven away.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that in a post-apocalyptic future there will be a lot of walking.  Admittedly, there will be a certain amount of driving around in very cool vehicles, but mostly it’ll be striding along, gun in hand, ready to kill or be killed. And it seems that very few of us will be dressed appropriately. 

There will, of course, be a lot of desert in this future.  If you’re going to make a post-apocalyptic movie, the desert is often the location of choice.  It’s pre-ruined in a way that, say, the Palace of Versailles isn’t.  And you’ve got to imagine it’ll be pretty hot in this desert of the future, but that won’t stop a lot of people from wearing a lot of leather.

You might argue that a Terminator can get away with it because he’s a cyborg and doesn’t feel the heat in the same way that real humans feel.

On the other hand, Mad Max is clearly feeling it in this picture, though you have to wonder if simply pulling one arm off your leather suit is really going to be enough to cool you down much.

If you’re Linda Hamilton you’ll wear an elegant little tank top, showing off your gym-toned arms, but this simply creates a different problem: she’s running a terrible risk of sunburn.  And if you reckon that in general women of the future will wear be wearing less than the men, you're probably right.

Milla Jovovich certainly looks well wrapped up in some respects in Resident Evil: Extinction but not so much that she can't show her stocking tops and thighs.

I’m not sure exactly what these boys from Star Trek are wearing in the episode “Desert Crossing.” It's not leather obviously: could it be polyester?   Clearly they’re sweating like SOBs.  Later in the episode they do strip down, though they don’t actually look much less sweaty or any more comfortable as a result.

And do spare a thought for poor Kyle MacLachlan in Dune.  Well yes, there are reasons to feel sorry all for the actors in that movie, but in the picture below it looks as though his sweat problem is so bad that nobody will come anywhere near him.  Wouldn’t he be much happier in a simple safari suit?

Finally (and I know you could go on about this stuff forever) we come to the movie of The Road.  Now that is one bleak future you’ve got yourself there, but it’s not the desert.  Instead, it’s a cold, grey, polluted world where the sun never shines, and walking is a grim and potentially lethal business.  But say what you like, father and son are certainly dressed for it.