Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea

Chris Metzler in Person

The Salton Sea, that vast briny body of water in SoCal, is a monument to man's mischief. Back in 1905, some land shenanigans ended in the flooding of a depressed piece of desert. Though the resulting “sea” has been depressed ever since, it was once ballyhooed as the “Riviera of the West,” a sun-drenched destination to rival Palm Springs. Idealized images of giggling water-skiers illustrate the sea's buoyant early history, before unstoppable floodwaters began turning motel mattresses into waterbeds. Narrated by the aptly named John Waters, Plagues & Pleasures wades into this saline sinkhole to find not only a dream that won't evaporate, but the dreamers themselves, an eccentric bunch of desert rats who don't seem to mind the massive fish die-offs that stink up their shores. Even Sonny Bono, the sump's late, great defender, couldn't turn the tide on the desert's toxic avenger. Regardless, the land speculators are back with a for-sale sign in one hand and a dead pelican in the other.

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