January 14, 2013
Last call for phone booths
In the summer of 1999, the Holy Spirit directed Rick Karr, a 51-year-old Texan, to answer the calls made to a phone booth located in the middle of the Mojave Desert, 15 miles from a highway. He spent 32 days camping beside the phone booth on the desert playa in scorching heat. During that time he answered over 500 calls, many of which came from someone named Sergeant Zeno, who said he was phoning from the Pentagon.
What was there was only a ghost of what had been there, a phone booth installed in the 1960s for volcanic cinder miners and the few other domestic residents of the area. By the time Rick Karr arrived, the glass casing had been shattered, and what remained of the interior was lined with candles, license plates, rosaries, and other votives.
Karr was only one in a long line of pilgrims to the Mojave Phone Booth. A Los Angeles resident was incited to visit by seeing a telephone icon on a map of the Mojave, and it was his description of the trip published in an underground zine that catalyzed Godfrey Daniels, a computer programmer and entrepreneur, to build a website devoted to the phone booth. That the internet made the Mojave Phone Booth famous is, of course, ironic: the very technology that had rendered the phone booth obsolete acting as the agent of its resurgence.
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