California City is the third largest city, by area, in the state of California, but hardly anyone's heard of it. That's because it's out in the Mojave, and except for a few pre-fab buildings, it's more a desert than a city. On the 13th of every month, people gather just outside town, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There's a big tent set up in the middle of the desert, and hundreds of people are gathered around in a circle. Lots of families. Lots of oldsters. There's a fair share of jerks like me loitering on the edges, taking photos and shooting video. A lady in a white robe is in the middle of the circle, saying stuff into a microphone. It turns out she's the lady who's receiving messages from the BVM. She might be relaying important information direct from God, but I can't tell because the p.a. speaker is blown.

At a certain point, the crowd gets excited. Everyone starts looking up at the sun. A lady next to me is bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, fists clenched, staring up at the sky and laughing out loud. Lots of people have Polaroid cameras, and they start shooting photo after photo, taking shots of the sun. The desert is quiet, except for the sound of people laughing and the click and whir of instant cameras.