The Clown Motel Meets Harold & Maude: An Analog Annal

A few months back I took a road trip through Nevada and up to California’s Bay Area. I spent the night in Tonopah, NV at the infamous Clown Motel, then went on an unofficial tour of some Harold and Maude filming locations once I made it up to Colma, CA and the surrounding area.

Although I’ve already posted a bunch of digital shots from this road trip, these instant film randoms have been collecting dust, just waiting to be scanned. I’m heading out of town tomorrow and figured I should post ’em before they’re buried under dozens of Rochester memories. Enjoy!

The Clown Motel in Tonopah, NV -- Impossible 600 color film that I left in my hot car after processing

The Clown Motel in Tonopah, NV — Impossible 600 color film that I left in my hot car after processing

Life-size clown in the Clown Motel's lobby.

Life-size clown in the Clown Motel’s lobby.

Clown Motel selfie.

Clown Motel selfie.

Clown Motel remnants.

Clown Motel remnants.

At Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, CA. The clearing used to be home to a large tree, featured prominently in Harold and Maude in the scene where Harold first sees Maude at the cemetery.

At Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, CA. The clearing used to be home to a large tree, featured prominently in Harold and Maude in the scene where Harold first sees Maude at the cemetery. — expired Impossible SX-70 film

Also from Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. -- expired Impossible 600 film

Also from Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. — expired Impossible SX-70 film

At Holy Cross Cemetery, standing where Harold was when he spotted Maude for the first time at the cemetery. -- expired Impossible film

At Holy Cross Cemetery, standing where Harold was when he spotted Maude for the first time at the cemetery. — expired Impossible SX-70 film

I figured I should take a shot with a camera that would've been in production around the time that Harold and Maude was being filmed. Enter the Polaroid Big Shot! Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, CA

I figured I should take a photo with a camera that would’ve been in production around the time that Harold and Maude was being filmed. Enter the Polaroid Big Shot! Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, CA

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The Silent Sleep in Colma

Cypress Lawn Memorial Park is located next to Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, CA. (I visited Holy Cross during my Harold and Maude tour; ending up at Cypress Lawn the same day was merely a happy accident.)

Wikipedia tells us this cemetery is also known as the “City of the Silent”, and that moniker pleases me greatly. The memorial statues here are massive and plentiful, with many figures adopting grief-stricken poses that make you feel it in here. *points to chest*

Here are some highlights from my brief but memorable visit to Cypress Lawn. Enjoy!

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On The Road to Find Out: A Love Letter to Harold and Maude

(Spoilers ahead. Duh.)

I was sixteen at the time and working at the local library. I must have spotted the Harold and Maude paperback while reshelving books and noticed “Paramount Pictures Presents” and “Songs by Cat Stevens” on the back cover. (I listened to a lot of Cat Stevens as a depressed, small town teenager. He seemed to have had it all figured out.)

My Cat fascination led me to locate the VHS copy of this particular Paramount Picture in our library’s AV department. I remember noticing it hadn’t been checked out in months. This was not 1994’s version of a smash library hit like Return of the Jedi or Fifty Shades of Grey; this was a bizarro 1971 cult film featuring mock suicides and age play that had mysteriously made its way into the catacombs of a library located in a quiet, one-stoplighted village in western New York. Were forest gnomes to blame? Or the high school janitor with the missing hard palate? We may never know.

Eventually the unpopular paperback made it to the library's discard pile, then into my hot little hands.

Eventually the equally unpopular paperback made it into the library’s discard pile, then into my hot little hands.

The day I met Harold and Maude was a day that changed my life. I had been spending my free time writing poetry about hating myself and being stuck inside the brain of an OCD sufferer who ofttimes wished she wouldn’t wake up, only to open my eyes each morning to begin the hellish cycle of Pure O all over again. Bud Cort’s Harold Chasen was stuck in a holding pattern of his own, hungry for hope, freedom and a new direction in life, but in his isolation he didn’t realize these things were possible — and without Maude to show him the way, he most definitely wouldn’t have known which steps to take. I could relate to this 20 year old kid dressed in Vietnam-era bell bottoms more than I could relate to pretty much all of the people I knew in real life. He was also cute and sweet and funny.

Ruth Gordon’s Maude was like Death of the Endless (from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman graphic novels) if Death traded in her black buckle boots and tank for your grandma’s tweedy winter coat and wool tights, then aged six human decades. Maude is old and wise. She teaches Harold about the ways of the world and how one person has the power to make it a better place, but when she does this she’s really teaching us. Aside from her horrendous driving skills, I hope to be as Maude-like as possible when I’m her age. You want to see someone who truly has no fucks to give? That person is Dame Marjorie Chardin, but you can call her Maude.

I figure I’ve probably viewed Harold and Maude approximately one hundred times since 1994. It is, without a doubt, my favorite movie of all time. That being said, I became worried a few months back, having not watched my favorite movie for a few years and wanting to but fearing that the darker events involving death by suicide that had recently occurred in my own life would change my perspective on the film in a bad way. What if I now felt it trivialized suicide? Or mocked it? Or used it to get a cheap laugh? What if I felt the deep meanings I took away from the film in the past wouldn’t hold up to a viewing today? What if the world had become so fucking painful that my precious celluloid life raft would leave me to drown in my own disillusionment? There was only one way to find out.

Had I known that director Hal Ashby’s father had suicided when Hal was 12, maybe I wouldn’t have worried. Because I shouldn’t have. If anything, Harold and Maude is even more beautiful, profound and perfect now. Now I notice things I hadn’t noticed during a hundred previous viewings: stuff on the shelves in Maude’s train car; the expression on Glaucus’ face; the observation that everything Maude says to Harold in the greenhouse about “living things” applies to him. Now it consistently brings me to tears…as it should. It’s a phenomenal movie.

I drove up to the Bay Area a few weeks ago and made it my mission to visit as many Harold and Maude filming locations as possible. What follows is a rag tag compilation of photos taken with my DSLR and my phone (depending on what I had with me at the time), as well as a YouTube video! Some images have been edited, some are raw, and some require lengthy descriptions. At any rate, I hope you enjoy this project that’s been twenty years in the making. ❤

At Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, CA. This is where Harold sees Maude for the first time. He's attending a service held in the vicinity of the Hanlon gravestone while Maude is hanging out by a (now missing) tree behind the Donovan gravestone. The red arrow shows you where Maude was chillin'.

At Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, CA. This is where Harold sees Maude for the first time. He’s attending a service held in the vicinity of the Hanlon gravestone while Maude is hanging out by a (now missing) tree behind the Donovan gravestone. The red arrow shows you where Maude was chillin’.

The Hanlon grave at Holy Cross

The Hanlon grave at Holy Cross.

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Another view of the area where Harold was standing by the coffin.

Another view of the area where Harold was standing by the casket.

Another view of the filming site at Holy Cross

Another view of the filming site at Holy Cross. Maude was positioned behind this front row of gravestones. And no tree!

A close up of the top of the Donovan stone. You can actually see the yellowed etching for a split second in the movie.

A close up of the top of the Donovan stone. You can actually see the yellowed etching for a split second in the movie.

Also at Holy Cross Cemetery. For over an hour I tried to locate the exact row where Harold and Maude encounter each other again at another graveside service. Much like the missing tree, I think some changes have been made to the grave markers here over the last 45 years, so I have no idea if I captured the exact spot. Just know that I tried!

Also at Holy Cross Cemetery. For over an hour I tried to locate the exact row where Harold and Maude encounter each other again at another graveside service. Much like the missing tree, I think some changes have been made to the grave markers here over the last 45 years, so I have no idea if I captured the exact spot. Just know that I tried!

Maybe here?

Maybe here?

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This should look familiar! The shadowy area to the left is the spot where Maude pulls up to pick Harold up after the service, and the priest questions her about painting the saint after she drove off in his VW.

This should look familiar! The shadowy area to the left is the spot where Maude pulls up to pick Harold up after the service, then the priest questions her about painting the saint after she drove off in his VW.

That musty mausoleum smell was wafting across the cemetery, beckoning...

That musty mausoleum scent was wafting across the cemetery, beckoning…

Inside the mausoleum.

Inside the mausoleum.

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Work in progress. (Underneath? Curing concrete.)

Work in progress. (Underneath? Curing concrete.)

The whys and what fors.

The whys and what fors.

Ravens in flight at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Ravens in flight at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, CA

Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, CA.

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The trees are definitely bigger than they were in the 1970s.

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The Sutro Baths Ruins in San Francisco, CA. This is where Uncle Victor and Harold encounter Maude protesting for peace.

The Sutro Baths Ruins in San Francisco, CA. This is where Uncle Victor and Harold encounter Maude protesting for peace.

These are the stairs (now crumbling and probably not safe to walk on) that Harold chases Maude down after she grabs his shrunken head.

These are the stairs (now crumbling and probably not safe to walk on) that Harold chases Maude down after she grabs his shrunken head.

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Mori Point in Pacifica, CA where the final scene was filmed.

Mori Point in Pacifica, CA where the final scene was filmed. The goal? Follow the trail up to the top of that tall thing.

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Clowning around on the trail to Mori Point.

Clowning around on the trail to Mori Point.

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Ocean, you make me feel insignificant and I like it.

Stumbling up to the top of Mori Point (in flip flops -- not recommended), I was rewarded with bird parts.

Stumbling up to the top of Mori Point (in flip flops — not recommended), I was rewarded with bird parts.

The grass is worn away in tire track formation. I think this is it.

The grass is worn away in tire track formation. I think this is it.

AHHHHH!

AHHHHH!

“You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world’s sorrow comes from people who are *this*, yet allow themselves be treated as *that*.” — Flowers at Mori Point.

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Interlope At Antelope

While driving up to the Bay Area a few weeks back I made a brief, unplanned pit stop at a cemetery on the side of the road in picturesque Coleville, CA .

Antelope Valley Cemetery has a lot in common with many desert cemeteries, and I was struck by the haunting figures guarding some of the graves. Here are some quick unedited snaps of my new friends. Enjoy!

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Lizard!

Lizard!

Orbiting Baker: Zyzzyx, Rock-A-Hoola, and Daggett Pioneer Cemetery

Jon and I spent quite a while exploring Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel in Baker, but we still made time during our Southern California jaunt to satisfy our other creepin’ curiosities.

What’s off Zyzzyx Road, you ask? We’re going back to explore the structures; until then, here are some photos from the salt flats:

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Plus a few from Instagram, featuring Jon:

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IMG_20150508_215759After Baker we found our way to Rock-A-Hoola/Lake Dolores water park. The photos are few, but I will say this: You know you’ve made it in urbex when you’re chased off property by a trailer-dwelling gentleman and his barking dog.

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rockahoola3loresOur last stop of the day was Daggett Pioneer Cemetery. The juxtaposition of ornately decorated modern graves surrounded by older graves belonging to miners and other townsfolk made for a visually (and historically!) interesting afternoon.

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Train!

Train!

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daggett12loresUntil next time…

Mid-Century Creepin’ in Baker

It’s challenging to find gobs of information online about Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel in Baker, CA.

A recent real estate listing states that the expansive property was an active motel from 1957 through 2009. Progressive photos and videos posted online show a noticable decline in upkeep since the property last sheltered a registered guest, however everything about the place — from the peeling palms painted on the side of the main structure to the waterless pool dominating the concrete courtyard — still suggests a carefree vacation on California desert soil.

Not long ago Jon and I visited Baker to stock up on delicious Alien Jerky. It turns out we were the aliens, traveling through space and time and ending up here…

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I developed a deep fascination with the multitude of old chairs strewn about the place.

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Bunny in the pool.

Bunny in the pool.

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Before '50 Shades of Grey' we had 'Jailbait & The Studs', copyright 1983.

Before ’50 Shades of Grey’ we had ‘Jailbait & The Studs’, copyright 1983.

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Friday the 13th in Kelso: An Analog Annal

Kelso, CA, March 2015.

We were creepin’ in the abandoned house when the battery in my Rebel T2i conked out. I grabbed my Polaroid from the back seat and loaded it with a fresh cartridge of black and white round frame goodness. Here are all eight shots from that pack, fuck-ups and all…

Kinda, huh?

YES

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7-UP

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So Tired

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🙂

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Oodles of Poodles

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MOM

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Shake the Shot

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Back Door Cam

Friday the 13th in Kelso: A Digital Diary

After Jon and I visited Cima, CA, we made our way to Kelso. This ghost town also has active railway tracks running through it, and attracted far more tourists than our previous stop had.

We checked out some old west exhibits at the museum and were hoping to find some chow at the depot’s restaurant, but alas, it’s closed until further notice. A dozen or so random people wandered around the area surrounding the depot/museum and the abandoned post office across the street.

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Yup, it’s an old post office.

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Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the post office’s two large front windows served as a mass grave for unfortunate birds and insects.

We can do it!

On an old hearth next to the post office. 

After playing post office, we decided to double back and visit an abandoned house we saw just down the road.

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The front porch.

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The small amount of graffiti on the walls was actually rather pleasant.

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All the best things: broken windows, old doors, peeling wallpaper, and a ceiling that now serves as a floor.

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I a-door this room.

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The Fates

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I was happy to see so much silly, vintage wallpaper still stubbornly clinging to the walls.

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A surprisingly colorful view from the back room.

A surprisingly colorful view from the back room.

The only person who approached us during our shenanigans was a park ranger who wanted to make sure we weren’t causing trouble. We asked her about local cemeteries (as we hadn’t seen any in Cima or Kelso). She told us she had heard of one where Chinese immigrants who built the railroad were buried, but she didn’t know where it was exactly. I suspect this may be the one she was talking about. I know where I’ll be creepin’ next time I’m in Kelso!

Now You Cima, Now You Don’t

Jon and I hadn’t realized we’d experienced Cima until after we’d already taken photos of the desert-worn ruins, train cars and shrine — and continued on down the desolate road, finding a whole lot of nothing in our path. That’s how small and unassuming this southern California ghost town really is.

We were there for a few hours in the early afternoon of Friday the 13th, March of 2015. Infrequent cars and motorcycles whizzed by on their way to somewhere else, while passing trains and a friendly kangaroo rat supplied the bulk of the activity. Other than that — despite the presence of a nearby compound surrounded by barbed wire fencing and large pipes — we failed to spy a single soul (shotgun wielding or otherwise).

After our adventures in Cima, the Shenanigods led us to Kelso, CA. I hope to have those photos posted within the next week, so please check back when you can. Thanks, and enjoy!

Collapsed ruins.

Collapsed ruins and enough lens flare to make J.J. Abrams blush.

Melted glass.

Melt-i media.

Tetanus fest.

Tetanus fest.

Someone was hot in bed.

Someone was hot in bed.

Hole-y shit!

Hole-y shit!

This shrine bears no identifying markers.

The shrine bears no identifying markers.

If you Google "Cima California shrine" you can view the different offerings placed here over the years.

If you Google “Cima California shrine” you can view the different offerings placed here over the years.

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Cima, California shrine offerings.

Bunny, bottle, dental floss.

Bunny, bottle, dental floss.

A wind chime hangs from the massive Joshua Tree.

A wind chime hangs from the massive Joshua Tree.

Choo choo!

Choo choo!

Piles of wire at "the compound".

Piles of wire at “the compound”.

Roaches and mattress springs will outlive us all.

Roaches and mattress springs will outlive us all.

A old trailer! Can we see inside?...

An old trailer! Can we see inside?…

Noted...

Noted…

An unlocked door, then this.

An unlocked door, then rat poop a-go-go!

Trailer trash.

Trailer trash.

Now that's what I call bad aim.

Now that’s what I call bad aim.

Ding Dongs R Us

Ding dongs.

Details.

Details.

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I was kind of obsessed with this red fire extinguisher.

The end?…