If you follow the Pacific Coast Highway between Long Beach and Huntington Beach there is a very long stretch where there is nothing on your right but sand and ocean, and nothing more on the left but derelict oil derricks. At night, the refineries’ long arching tubes of iron light up like blazing yellow particles in frozen cyclotrons. You won’t see anyone out there, but the smoke pumps at all hours, and the sound carries over the beaches.
There is a train station in there, but I’ve never seen the train. They say you can’t reach it except by trekking back through the drainage sewers that empty into the boarded off bits of the Bolsa beaches. And if you believe the men who claim to work at these raucous but ostensibly abandoned derricks, men who can turn invisible at the slightest whiff of gasoline, the only fare needed to climb aboard the train is a perfect, sun bleached sand dollar.
But Californians can believe anything, so long as it’s beautiful.