“Victorville was a fucked up wreck, but it was also a very familiar fucked up wreck—a microcosm of Modern America, a well-oiled system that’s built on speculation, suckers and financial fraud . . . And I’m eager to see how it’s been shaping up in my absence.”


Back to Victorville: Dispatch Zero

Las Vegas: It’s just past 5 a.m. and I’m sitting in my suite at The Plaza hotel, high up above the grimy streets of downtown Las Vegas. On the horizon, beyond the gold brick Trump Tower, beyond the needle of the Stratosphere, beyond the shimmering lights of the city, I can make out the hazy outline of the Spring Mountain range that separates the Vegas basin from the open Mojave Desert.

In a few hours, I am going to cross those mountains, drop down into California and head in the direction of my next NSFWCORP assignment: I’m moving to Victorville, California, a gnarly desert bubble suburb that inflated faster and popped harder than almost any other place in the West.

I know Victorville well. Maybe too well. . . I moved there in early 2009 to get a first-hand sense of what life was like in a subprime city in the wake of the worst financial crash since the Great Depression. I rented a brand new three-bedroom house equipped with a master bedroom, whirlpool bathtub, centralized air conditioning and a spacious two-car garage, located in a half-empty “master-planned community” on the edge of town.

I thought it would be fun and ridiculous, an adventure—like deep sea diving down to a shipwreck. But I quickly learned that it was grimmer and scarier, and more educational than I ever expected.

At first I planned on staying no more than six months, but became so absorbed in the horror of what I saw and learned there, I ended up staying for nearly two years. I reported on local real estate swindles, pissed off the city’s corrupt political elite, made the front page of the local libertarian-founded newspaper and became so obsessed with Victorville politics that I seriously considered running for a spot on the city council. In the end, I nearly lost my mind due to the extreme isolation, as well as the development of an unhealthy chemical habit. I had to flee the city, and it took me more than a year of convalescing on the beaches of Venice, California, to get my health and sanity back.

Now, four years after I first moved to Victorville, I finally have strength and the moral fortitude to venture back. . .

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