Monday, March 17, 2008

Desert Blues

We just got back from a mini road trip. We drove to a national park near Coachella, which is not hipster haven at this time of year (we were about 50 days early for that). It is, instead, a meeting ground for the nomadic tribe known as "retirees" in "mobile homes." We were going to the desert.

A few hours out of town, with nary a cactus in sight, I spied an outlet mall. "Isaac!" I practically shouted. I made him stop and told him I would only need 30 minutes (only the Saks and Barney's could be worth a look, right?). He was mildly annoyed because, "This is not what I..."...(silence). He wisely cut himself off.

In the end, he needed more time to do more shopping. This is where I flip my hand and put it inches from his face and say, "Whatever!"

Isaac and I spent a night at Joshua Tree. His idea. It's not like I don't like camping or the desert; I loved everything about the Sahara when I went with Tania in January. No shower for a week? Not a problem. Hair like a Brillo pad filled with sand? A-ok. But camels and Tuareg music in the Sahara are pretty spectacular. Joshua trees in California? I guess they're nice to look at and all but...


Isaac and I realized this after a chilly hike around with the big prize being Skull Rock, a rock that mildly resembles a skull (that's being generous). Yes, the rock formations are stunning BUT SO IS THE COLD.

I considered just sleeping in the car like Tania and I did at the Fete du Chameau (you would have, too). Isaac and I ate a weird meal sitting in the car as the sun went down (salmon out of a tin, cheese) got drunk passing a bottle of wine back and forth (yes it felt weird drinking in a car) and then made a quick dash for the tent. We had put it up, after all. We eventually dozed (wine helped) but woke up to the tent wildly thrashing in the cutting desert wind - all four sides of the tent were freaking out like we were inside something alive. Vinyl, but alive. I thought, Well, at least it's almost morning so we can just skedaddle. Then I looked at my watch - it was 1 am. It was a long night.

At 6 am, we finally hightailed it. Our neighbour's tent in the next spot over had lost their fly (stuck in a faraway prickly bush) and half their tent was collapsed. Why were they still in it? Vroom (the sound of us leaving). I told Isaac that he owed me like, 10 hours at the outlet mall.

We cruised along the highway all morning. We spent a little time in Palm Springs. When I was in Saskatoon in the dead of winter last month, I thought, This place is so bleak but that's its charm. Palm Springs is the opposite. It is perfect and gorgeous with tall palm trees lining the wide manicured streets and giant, snow-capped mountains that point towards endless blue sky. I guess that's technically beautiful but something about the perfection is disgusting. It's sterile and there's something about the incongruity of golf lawns and Hummers in the desert that made me want to scream. Is anything real there?

We poked into thrift shops in Palm Springs (you would think vintage would be fantastic there but it's not) and jumped into a gorgeous outdoor public pool when it became unbearably hot, mid-afternoon. The high school swim team were getting their yearbook photo taken. It took about, oh, 2 and a half hours. Teenage girls are uncontrollable. That's kind of what's awesome about them.

On our way back to LA, at a rest stop, we met Slim, a 250-lb pig with a red diamante barrette perched on the front of her wobbly, morbidly obese head. She belongs to an older couple, very friendly. They're from Louisiana. The three of them live in a van, homeless after being hit by Ivan and then again by Katrina. The lady was so friendly and full of jokes but when she divulged that last bit of info to me, I didn't know what to say anymore.

Back in LA, we hit Koreatown for grilled bbq...indoors, grilled ourselves over charcoal. It struck me that for a camping trip, we were doing things backwards.


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