Have you found what you’re looking for?
June 19, 2022 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Meet the superfan who made a plaque marking the site of U2's Joshua Tree. Just west of Death Valley, along a grimy string of semi-active mining settlements and the empty scrublands where the Navy tests explosives, right off the road, there’s a mounted bronze plaque and a dead tree. The plaque asks, “Have you found what you’re looking for?” The dead tree would just be another dead Joshua tree if it hadn’t graced the cover of one of the best-selling albums of all time. Yes, that album. Yes, that tree.
posted by Long Way To Go (27 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Great article - thanks for posting!
posted by sundrop at 10:12 AM on June 19

I've been fascinated by an unexpected memorial while out walking around where I live. Not long after I moved to Cornwall I went out to walk the local country lanes, and on a very quiet stretch came across a concrete plinth and cross, alongside the road, with single storey farm build the only nearby structures. The short plaque says only that it was Ukrainian Christians fleeing Russian communists.

Turns out that the UK welcomed Ukrainians fleeing religious persecution following WW2. You can read a bit more here.
posted by biffa at 10:28 AM on June 19 [4 favorites]

That is remarkable. I appreciate (sometimes) super-fans of - whatever thing they happen to be so passionate about. Totally understand a desert fascination.

Following this article, I came across a story that I had never before seen or heard about - the death of Gram Parsons.
posted by davidmsc at 10:50 AM on June 19 [6 favorites]

On my first (and perhaps only) visit to Joshua Tree National Park, I had a spirited debate over what percentage of visitors had a) first heard of it because of the U2 album b) were currently playing the album as they explored the park. We figured that in the case of European tourists, it was probably over 50% who first heard of it because of the album?
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:52 AM on June 19

[Note: I had checked out a copy of Joshua Tree the album from the LA County Public Library system expressly for the purpose of playing it while we drove around the park.]
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:53 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]

That’s when he got a job at a bronze foundry and spent the next year and a half learning bronze-casting. Like one does.
Beautiful. It's not really my music, but I love the obsession, and the place. Well, very nearby places. (Do other people see the images in the article? I've tried a couple of browsers with no luck.)
posted by eotvos at 11:03 AM on June 19 [3 favorites]

FWIW, I first heard of the tree when the album came out. I didn't know it was a park at the time.

Last year I visited the park for the first time and it was fantastic! Highly recommended. I don't think I listened to the album in the park, but I did listen to it shortly after dawn as I drove north from Palm Springs across the desert. It's a great album for early morning desert driving, and just a great album in general. It was a big part of the soundtrack for my life when it was new, but I eventually got burned out on it and didn't listen to it for many years. It's rare that I actually listen to the whole thing at this point, so it's always a trip down memory lane. Now I have that desert trip to add to my other memories of momentous times when listening to that album.

The trees are not (of course) constrained to the park and they're scattered all over the place, which surprised me a little bit. I enjoyed spotting them as I drove up 395.

I meant to explore Death Valley but ran short on time. Now I need to plan a trip to do that and find this plaque sometime after the weather cools down.

(I'm not seeing the images in the article either fwiw)
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 11:10 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]

Nope, no images, alas. Just the captions below the LA Weekly logo where, I presume, the photos are supposed to be. The same in Chrome and Safari on iOS.
posted by bz at 11:13 AM on June 19 [5 favorites]

Some images of the tree and the plaque can be found here.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:19 AM on June 19 [8 favorites]

On my first (and perhaps only) visit to Joshua Tree National Park, I had a spirited debate over what percentage of visitors had a) first heard of it because of the U2 album b) were currently playing the album as they explored the park.

I only knew about Joshua trees and the park because of the album, but the album came out when I was seventeen and I live on the east coast and had never been to any national parks at that point.

I've been to the park twice now and I absolutely love it. The first time I was with my non-U2 loving family so I knew playing the album would be lost on them. The second time I was with a friend and, not only did we listen to the album, but I made this for him as a memento.
posted by bondcliff at 11:24 AM on June 19 [9 favorites]

Following this article, I came across a story that I had never before seen or heard about - the death of Gram Parsons.

There's a good documentary.
posted by rhizome at 12:00 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

When the album came out I was just about 20 and my parents had moved to Las Vegas for some job-related reason, so my memories of this album are actually bound up with visits to the southwest US. I spent endless amounts of time listening to it as I drove around in my car up here, of course, which is what we did back then for entertainment. Not only does the album capture a bit of the desert, it captures a bit of the stuff we've built in the desert...gigantic tacky casinos, bright neon lights.
posted by maxwelton at 12:08 PM on June 19

For more fun Gram Parsons weird death info, here's one of my favorites: Finally, an iconic corpse where the shenanigans happened in accordance with the wishes of the person.
posted by winesong at 12:29 PM on June 19

For several years I had a few bars from Mysterious Ways stuck in my head without knowing where it came from

Which was from the Superior U2 album
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:48 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

I had a friend who didn't realize there was more than one tree, just the single Joshua tree out there all alonesome.
posted by djseafood at 1:19 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]

Hello, my name's Josh, and I'm a tree. (The plant and place are rumored to have been named by LDS migrants and is almost certainly a biblical reference. If it were a single, specific tree, that wouldn't actually be all that surprising. There are plenty of other individual trees, rocks, etc with specific names. Fascinating!)
posted by eotvos at 1:34 PM on June 19

The plaque asks, “Have you found what you’re looking for?”

I have not, but it is very hard to track down a specific point Where the Streets Have No Name.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:23 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

Somewhat of a derail, I'm sorry, but the topic had me automatically searching my favorite unsolved mystery................. and OMG, I'm shaking, because it seems to have been solved!!!!!! William Michael Ewasko, might actually be resting in peace now.
posted by Jacen at 2:54 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]

This article has some pictures.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:07 PM on June 19

Got that album for Christmas and promptly lost it. Still have never listened to the whole thing as it makes me feel guilty for losing a Christmas present.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:29 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]

As someone who grew up in Southern California and was fortunate to go on family vacations as a child, I knew of the tree and the park well before discovering the album. Which was kind of neat.

One of only two U2 albums I can listen to all the way through (the other being, obviously, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb).
posted by khrusanthemon at 12:52 AM on June 20

Cool little story. Unfortunately, all Joshua trees are at risk, due to the combination of suburban sprawl, solar power plants, and climate change.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:55 AM on June 20

only tangentially related but my sister & I were driving past Joshua Tree recently & she told a story about a mutual friend of ours who's a high-energy world traveler type, let's call her Pegeen for narrative convenience

Pegeen had acquired a friend from somewhere, let's call her Dale, & while they were talking once Joshua Tree came up & Dale mentioned how badly she wanted to go, saying a visit to Joshua Tree was on her bucket list

Pegeen, who never passes up an opportunity to help someone cross off a travel-related bucket list item, immediately planned & executed a seasonally-appropriate cross-country trip for both of them to spend a weekend hiking around Joshua Tree with her extensive collection of hiking gear

when they arrived Dale looked around in consternation & observed that Joshua Tree was nothing but joshua trees & she had been expecting a significantly higher percentage of partying & famous people

we're pretty sure she was thinking of Coachella

sadly the festival was not taking place that weekend, I think they wound up hanging out in a hotel bar in Indio or something

bucket list checked
posted by taquito sunrise at 9:40 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]

I honestly thought there was only one single joshua tree until just a few years ago when I was talking to someone who had just visited the park. Now I wonder how they all tell each other apart when they are all named Josh.
posted by srboisvert at 12:31 PM on June 20

I did too, until I went there and saw them all over the place. "Pfft, Joshua Tree? I think that should be plural." What I and probably others were almost certainly doing was conflating it with the Bristlecone Pine thing.
posted by rhizome at 12:55 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised I'd never heard of Methuselah until now.

I did spend six hours driving specifically to see Pando two years ago. If you didn't read about it ahead of time, you'd never notice it. Trees are neat!
posted by eotvos at 6:52 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]

When I visited LA as a teenager in the 90s my cousins took us to the cemetery where their father (my uncle) was buried. It was a long way out of LA and we were on roads going through what looked like desert and there were Joshua trees which really excited me because I'd only seen them from U2 videos (I was a huge fan!). The cemetery was in some small town in the middle of nowhere and I'm not sure why he was buried there given that it was so far from where my cousins lived but that was the one and only time I saw Joshua trees so I'm glad it wasn't somewhere more convenient.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:37 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]

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