Another Palm Springs: The Salton Sea is not for everyone (Photo: Tim Murphy).Bombay Beach, California—At the far corner of the Ski Inn on Avenue A, in the only juice joint in a town too small, even, for its own polling station, two-hundred and thirty-nine feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean—an elevation that's low enough for long enough that Navy pilots will from time to time buzz overhead just to tell their buddies they took a dip below sea level—George Cannon, 90, is talking about his fears.
"I'm glad I'm not a young person right now," he says, emphatically, looking up from a glass of Franzia. He'll say this many times over the course of a few hours. The reasons are myriad—there's the recession, no, depression, which he frets will take us years to get out of. There's China, which is just sitting there waiting to become the second wheel to a world war. And there's the Mayan apocalypse, which is slated to arrive sometime in 2012, by which point he will gladly be gone* and we'll be stuck dealing with whatever the heck it is that's even supposed to happen. Not that he isn't content with his life—"If I could go back, I'd like things to happen as they did; the good times outnumbered the bad." Just glad he's not my age is all.
George has a piece of shrapnel, picked up in Burma during the War, on the inside of his right bicep, visible to the eye as a brown dot. He went in for an MRI once ("those M things"), and was kept in the chamber for, by his estimate, 300 hours, because the doctor forgot to take that into account. It also sets off metal detectors, although he can usually escape detention. His darts game has hit a rough patch recently, but all told, he has taken his years well; the desert has a way of making everyone, 8 to 80, look 65.