“Poet’s Paradise” is how I think of life in the desert. It is rich in happenings, etching snapshots into aging brain cells, poetry and prose blossoming like a faded lily rejuvenated by hi-grade fertilizer.
My kitchen window is like an IMAX movie screen with short films playing throughout the day. Hummingbirds flutter like fairies in the spray of the sprinkler, gleefully screeching to each other as if to say, “The pits! The pits! Don’t forget the wing-pits!” Red-tailed hawk sits patio-side eyeballing Dakota sleeping in her perch, oblivious to the hawk’s need to eat. Multi-colored hot air balloons drift in formation the length of the valley, silent except for the occasional whoosh of hot air lifting them higher.
This past year has been a smorgasbord of discoveries, from exploring desert “must-sees” to finding a good belly laugh lodged in the mundane of everyday life, fueling the muse, feeding my need to write in flavors full-bodied and sweet—like a pairing of Cabernet and juicy strawberries dipped in dark chocolate.
Have I ever mentioned how friendly the people are here? Some encounters have been a little friendlier than others, with a few leaving ever-lasting visuals.
“Joey.” One day last February I was walking across the parking lot at Ralph’s Market after a mani/pedi appointment when I heard a male voice behind me yell in his New York accent, “You have the most beautiful red hair!” That got my attention. I whipped around to see a Joey Buttafuoco look-alike coming up behind me. “Uh, thanks,” I replied, not knowing quite what to do with a man who approaches me in a parking lot with a statement like that, except to continue walking.
He followed, chattering on as I responded in one-syllable answers. I have to admit that I was flattered. I’d like to think I’m aging gracefully and when I apply my “Bondo and paint,” as Cort would have called it, I don’t look too bad. But I was a bit nervous. Reaching my car I turned to face him.
“Ya know, we should get together sometime…for drinks or something,” he said.
Stammering at the “or something,” I listened to him continue. “Oh, by the way, I’m married. Is that a problem?”
“Uh, yeah, dude, it is. Give my regards to your wife.” Driving off I took satisfaction in watching him search for his car. So taken with my red hair, he’d forgotten where he’d parked.
“Target blonde.” Several months later I was putting my Target purchases into the back of my car when I heard a female voice behind me say, “Excuse me, this is a bit forward of me, and probably inappropriate, but could I ask you something?” Once again I whipped around to see the face behind the voice— a striking blonde 40-ish woman driving a fairly new white Mercedes SUV.
Now what? I thought, remembering my last parking lot encounter. Hesitating, I asked, “Yes?”
“Well, I was wondering how much you paid for your car. I’m getting a divorce and just found out this morning that they are repossessing my Mercedes this afternoon so I need to buy another car.”
When I told her what I had paid for Thelma, my Cadillac SRX, she bemoaned, “Oh, I think that is over my budget.”
Without missing a beat I told her to get a different attorney, to which she responded, “I think I better. You are the second person to tell me that.”
“Nick.” Chico’s is my favorite women’s clothing store. In this area it is not uncommon to have young men as sales clerks in cosmetic or women’s clothing stores. That doesn’t bother me. Popping into the store one day, looking for something new to wear, Nick wandered my way and quickly became my best friend for the afternoon. He was a slender 23-year-old young man with close-cropped blonde hair fashionably gelled to a slight point in the middle. He worked with me for about half an hour, learning my clothing likes and dislikes.
He pointed to a couple of tank tops that would co-ordinate nicely with my chosen heap of clothes bear-hugged in his arms. I told him I really didn’t like to wear tank tops because my bra straps always end up slipping off my shoulders, to which he replied, “I know; I have the same problem.” As he spun on his heels and trotted off to my dressing room with the armload of clothes, I stood there, mouth hanging open nearly to my chest. Say what??
After unloading the heap of clothes into my dressing room, he returned to my side with a sly grin on his face, knowing full-well what thoughts were running through my head. Matching his sly grin I inquired, “Okay, Nick. What is with you and the bra straps?”
He proceeded to tell me that he was a female impersonator of Carol Channing, with whom he had lived for several years. He even had some of her clothes, boas, jewelry and shoes. He said he sang her songs, as opposed to most of the impersonators who do Karaoke. I used to love to go to Finocchio’s in San Francisco back in the 1980s where a talented group of cross-dressers would sing and dance, the audience enthralled with their performance. It was great fun.
Nick was a delightful young man, very helpful, with whom I spent three hours, leaving with a good portion of “the heap” neatly folded into three large bags. I told him I would like to see him perform some time so we exchanged email addresses.
A couple of days later I received an email from Nick telling me that he would be performing in Palm Springs at Street Bar, advertised as a “friendly, neighborhood bar attracting locals and tourists.” It is also a gay bar. Hmmm. My friend Lanita, who lives in Sacramento, was coming for the weekend and she is always game for anything. A quick phone call had her replying, “Uh… sure.”
As it turned out, several of the women sales clerks from Chico’s showed up so we stuck together. Seven women, 50 and older, in a gay bar, filled with an assortment of men— young, old, most of them quite good looking, definitely gay. No dating options here. For the most part they were respectful, with the older men more accepting of us than the younger men.
One of the gals had quite a bit to drink so naturally had to go to the bathroom. OMG! No women’s bathroom! Well, duh! It’s a gay bar! She had to take care of business while five guys looked on, snickering in amusement.
“Nicky” did a great job. Dressed in one of Carol’s gorgeous blue gowns, silver pumps, yellow boa, and dripping in “diamond” rings, he belted out songs in a quirky voice like that of Ms. Channing. The joint was a bit rowdy but he did a good job of working the crowd, settling them down, and bringing them to attention. An hour into the show La and I began to get a bit antsy, especially when a couple of bare-chested guys walked by strutting their stuff. I figured if clothes were being shed, it was time to leave.
I can now cross, “Visit a gay bar,” off my bucket list.
“The best!” I took Thelma to the car wash last week to spruce her up a bit. I ran her through the floppy things that swish back and forth, wiping the foamy soap across her exterior, treated her to a protectant polish, followed by dressing her tires, then through the dryer that, if you let the dog put his head out the window, his lips would flap and blubber just like Hooch, the wrinkly faced Dogue de Bordeaux in the movie Turner and Hooch.
After being cleansed and dressed I drove Thelma to the vacuum area so the attendants could clean out the interior crevices. As I walked over to the bench to wait for Thelma, I smiled at an 80+/− year old man waiting for his car. I sat down on the bench to his left to check e-mail on my iPhone just as he leaned a bit to the right and, well…passed gas. Now, I understand that as we get older we have gastrointestinal issues, and I have a few myself. But Jeez Louise! I tried not to laugh, biting the inside of my cheek so hard it drew blood. I could barely contain myself! Did he think I was hard of hearing? Did he think that the sucking sound of the vacuum would drown out the noise of his public mishap as it snapped out, reverberating off the metal bench? I tried to focus on my e-mail. I tried to think of something that would make me sad. I tried to think of anything except that “snap.”
AND THEN! They beckon him to his polished-to-mirrored-gloss black Ferrari. He climbs in, revs the engine a bit, eases the beauty onto Country Club Drive, and hauls ass in a cloud of pent-up testosterone. By the way, have I mentioned before that Viagra is a big seller here?