Jan. 14: What’s Beyond the Asphalt?

At the edge of the Angeles National Forest, buried behind suburbs and freeways, with mountains looking down, is a massive parking lot. It is, really, a number of massive parking lots, stretching one after another. So long does it take to get from one end to the other that a yellow outlined “road” has been painted curving through the lots, so that cars might speed along more quickly.

Sticking up out of the middle, towering over anything that might be near it, except the mountains, is a series of large scientific-looking buildings. Science must happen here.

Around the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, people ride horses at slow speeds. They walk dogs along the trails in the national forest and across the dirt expanse beyond the lots. There are strips of sand and bushes cutting through the asphalt, so that these interlopers might be guided on their way. Nothing else to see here.

Past the created trails, though, the paths are made of broken concrete. The horses and dog-walkers cross rusted metal bridges. They pass stairs going to nowhere and empty outpost buildings that might have been for some kind of science once, for whatever jets are propulsed inside the unscalable walls. Now, the only hints among the cactus about anything happening in the buildings below are the stray nerds who wander out for a lunchtime walk. You can spot them by their badges.