The cat moves to Joshua Tree thursday night, and therefore so do we. He calls the shots, really.
It’s been around 117° here for the last couple days, and the power will be turned off on Friday. Not because we’re moving: because Southern California Edison decided it was a good idea to schedule important maintenance in a week when air conditioning is likely keeping some of my neighbors alive. And since the cat has a thick fur coat of which we are reluctant to deprive him, we will be placing him in the Little Scary Box and placing the Little Scary Box in the Big Noisy Scary Box and driving the Big Noisy Scary Box to San Bernardino County on Thursday evening, and he will Never Come Back to the Coachella Valley.
I might not either. Aside from cleaning the old apartment.
I have been reluctant to admit it. I have been wanting to think the best of Palm Springs. When we moved here in February ‘11 I was intoxicated by the beauty of the place, the staggering slopes of San Jacinto and the Santa Rosas, the color of the light across the Indio Hills at sunset toward the Little San Bernardinos. It was lovely, and it still is.
And yet nearly from the moment we moved in there have been those little things. They started out as little things. I told myself that.
It wasn’t long before I was running the tally in my head.
PRO: It’s beautiful here.
CON: If I don’t get out hiking before 11:00 am it’s too hot to go hiking, especially given the sheer and overwhelming verticality of the trails nearby.
PRO: Hey, lots of great-looking restaurants here to serve the tourist trade!
CON: Oh, right: tourists have lousy taste.
CON: What is it with these restaurants leaving their “OPEN” signs lit when they’re out of business?
PRO: Florian lives here, and he’s a great guy. Nice to have a friend in town even before I move in!
CON: Good lord, is that band at the Roadhouse actually trying to play “White Wedding”? Have they ever heard the song before?
PRO: Coffee in the neighborhood as good as I’ve ever had in San Francisco or Berkeley.
CON: It’s five blocks away and it’s 112° out already, at 9:30 am.
PRO: Thriving LGBT community in the desert!
CON: Thriving LGBT community in the desert that wants nothing to do with local residents!
PRO: The temperature’s finally down to 82°; let’s turn off the AC and open the window.
CON: Wait, is it only 11:30? Open Mike night at the Roadhouse goes on for another two and a half hours? Can we shut the windows again?
CON: Open Mike Night was supposed to end an hour ago.
CON: Sure, let me just meet that 10 am deadline after falling asleep at 4:30, once the fucking Harleys left.
PRO: Spending most days in the company of the rabbit
CON: Rabbit gets sick and dies
PRO: Veterinary staff treating rabbit and animal shelter people accepting donations of dead rabbit’s personal effects are wonderfully supportive and kind
CON: This constitutes the first sense of community we’ve felt in 13 months of living in Palm Springs
PRO: Palm Springs PD responds quickly when Jeep is stolen
CON: Palm Springs PD responds even more quickly when Jeep is stolen for the second time
And so on.
I remember setting up my home office here in Palm Springs and thinking “this is where I finish the book.” I have written not word one of the book since then. I have written most of another book, but nothing on the one I thought I would.
It’s been interesting. Palm Springs was never supposed to have been anything but an attempt to make things work for both my LGBT-urban sweetheart and my desert-rat self, and it didn’t work for either of us. Some of that is certainly our fault: we each have a degree of social anxiety. But some of it is just that it’s not a very welcoming place, Florian and Espresso Cielo notwithstanding. Annette has been singularly unhappy here, and not just because of the heat.
In May I had a brief speaking gig in a theater in Joshua Tree, and Annette came along. We were there for three or four hours, talking to local enviro-artist types and getting a look at the artwork of the theater owner, who was voluble and kind and quirky in the way we appreciate. Before we got back to the Palm Springs apartment that night Annette had decided we were moving.
This was fine by me, to put it mildly. Joshua Tree was a place I’d imagined living since I was here with Zeke about a dozen years ago. My ex-and I talked about making the move, and then our landlord sold the house out from under us and deprived us of the leisure we needed to move across the state, and we bought a house up the road a piece, and the rest is history. I love the place, but I would not have asked Annette to move there. It’s small. It’s rural.
But it has artists, and it has LGBT folk, and it has people so glad for kindred spirits that we’ve gotten emails from people we don’t know welcoming us to town and inviting us over. We were told we needed a certain credit rating to rent the house that seemed right and we didn’t have that credit rating. That didn’t matter if we could pony up first and last and the deposit for the cat and we couldn’t until August. That was OK because the agent was willing to finance the first and last and cat deposit so that we could get the keys July 1, which gave us a no-interest loan to make the move over the course of a month. We got the keys and went to our new place and looked at the yard and each of us thought “this back yard would work just fine for the wedding.”
Then the Jeep got stolen. I got it back and it got stolen again. It was totaled the second time and I was on the hook for $200 in towing charges. This afternoon I found that someone had charged $338.00 of my bank account funds toward their Southern California Edison account; it may be a mere coincidence and accident of transposed numbers entered by an SCE employee, or it may have something to do with the checkbook that was in the Jeep when it was stolen the second time.
And I’m like “Okay, enough with the stick: the carrot was working just fine.”
Last night, Monday night, I sat in our Joshua Tree backyard waiting for a local friend to come by with a copy of the Zeke book he wanted signed for his dad. IT was cool and comfortable: only about 97° at sunset. I had my phone, and I had a set of binoculars, and with the two of them combined in uncomfortably awkward fashion I managed to grab this photo of my new neighbor:
He has a small freckle inside his left ear, and so I am calling him Spot, at least until he tells me what his real name is. He is one of half a dozen rabbity habitues of our yard, that I know of. And there are quail, and bats, and mourning doves and hummingbirds, coyotes and cactus wrens and no motorcycles at 2 am, from what I can tell.
I remind myself that if it weren’t for a year and a half in Palm Springs, neither Annette nor I would appreciate our new place quite so much.