What’s it like to be young in the desert? Features reporter Maggie Downs is living the life, and she’s ready to share all she’s learned in her short tenure as a California girl.
About This Blog
Ohio native Maggie Downs moved to the Coachella Valley in September.
Check out what it’s like to be young and a new arrival to the desert as she shares excerpts from her new life in California.
The End of the Road July 18, 1:06 p.m. (cue Boyz II Men music)
It's official. This is the last day for the ol' Desert Diaries blog.
Tomorrow if you go to thedesertsun.com, you will be redirected to our spiffy new website, My Desert.
But where is Maggie?
Wait. I'll tell you.
Roll your mouse over to the tab at the top that says "Get Published." Yeah, that's nice. That feels good.
But don't click just yet.
Now, do you see how there's a bar right below that? Kind of a mid-century modern blue bar? And it has words in it?
One of those words should be "Blog." Click there. Just like that. Oh, yeah. That's sexy.
You should now have a new page. You'll probably see a handsome young man at the top there. That's Larry Bohannan, our golf reporter. You can read his blog too.
And who's that surly pirate underneath him? Why, that's me!
Go on. Click it. I promise it won't hurt.
The My Desert blog doesn't have the same neat scroll-downy layout that this blog has. However, it has a lot of other cool features that you were missing over here.
For instance, interaction. Let's say you read something I write and you think, "Boy, is that girl crazy or what?" You can now leave a comment that says, "Girl, you so crazy." And I can write back and say, "I know, right?"
My new blog also takes less than 1,000 years to load, since all the photos and whatnot aren't on the same page.
Oh, and best of all, you can create a user name and start your own blog. Or hey, come join me in the forum section -- I really need some people to chat with about "So You Think You Can Dance." Or just click the little link to mark me as a friend.
Jesus told me so July 16, 5:48 p.m. The Boyfriend and I attended the matinee of "Godspell" yesterday at Palm Canyon Theatre.
It was wonderful, by the way. I don't think people realize how difficult it is to sing for more than two hours straight and keep energy high and do it all with a whole audience watching you ... but it is. And they all did an amazing job. But I digress.
I had about two minutes before the show started, and I needed to run to the bathroom. Only the bathrooms there are somewhere outside. I couldn't quite remember where, and in my rush I missed the big sign that said "WOMEN" and had a gigantic arrow.
So I wander around the courtyard and eventually see two girls and a guy, hanging out.
"Hey, do you know where the bathroom is?" I said.
"TEE HEE HEE," said the teenage girls.
"There are some bushes," said the guy, shoving his thumb in the direction of some shrubbery.
What luck, I thought. Here I was searching for a bathroom, and instead I discovered the funniest guy in the world. Hilarious.
I eventually found the restroom and got to my seat and started watching the musical, which is based on the gospel of St. Matthew.
And wouldn't you know it? On stage was the guy who told me to pee in the bushes ... and he was playing the role of Jesus.
But that is totally going to be my excuse for everything from now on.
Jonathan Adler knows what's what July 16, 4:09 p.m. I'm working on a piece for the paper about "Welcome to the Parker," the new Bravo relaity show that details the everyday drama of our very own posh Parker Palm Springs resort.
During my research, I found this Travel + Leisure piece from 2005, where design guru Jonathan Adler (who gave the Parker interior a whimsical overhaul) lists his top favorite P.S. haunts.
Here's what he said:
PRINTS CHARMING "Trina Turk [891 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/416-2856] has the clothes that everyone should wear on vacation: colorful and groovy. It's also the place to find out what's going on in town. Trina has her finger on the pulse."
PALM SPRINGS DIET "The magic of Melvyn's [200 W. Ramon Rd.; 760/325-2323; dinner for two $100] is that white-linen experience. They know their way around a steak and a cocktail, so it appeals to ninety-year-old swingers and twenty-year-old swinger wannabes."
ART TROUVÉ "There are miles of malls with consignment stores, but the Estate Sale [4185 E. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/321-7628] has a great art section. On a good day, you can find a needlepoint portrait of Liza Minnelli. I did not put that in the Parker. I took it home."
MALL WITH IT ALL "I love all the vintage shops at the Palm Canyon Galleria [457 N. Palm Canyon Dr.; 760/323-4576], but Patrick and James at Bon Vivant have the best eye and a sort of missionary zeal to get things into the right people's hands at reasonable prices. My own personal passion is the pieces they get by Danish ceramist Bjoern Wiinbladd, but they also have an incredible collection of major California crafts."
Fake Prom July 12, 5:17 p.m. Again, I'm cleaning my desk. And I came across an old story I wrote in Cincinnati.
My editors thought it would be funny to send me as a grown-up back to a high school prom. I wore a satin dress and had a wrist corsage and everything. It was something straight out of "Never Been Kissed."
It was weird, of course. I actually passed for a teenager, probably because a lot of young girls these days look 26 -- even long before they turn 18. And I never lied to any of the students, but some of them assumed that I was a new girl at school.
The most unexpected thing about the night was how quickly and easily people can revert back to old behaviors. When I was in high school, I was the painfully awkward goth chick in drama club, and I could feel that bubbling to the surface again when I went to Fake Prom.
Some waify tan blondes tried to bully me in the bathroom, and I almost crumbled around them. And then I remembered, "Oh wait. I'm a grown-up now, and I have self-confidence, and I no longer care about what other people think of me."
The other weird thing about Fake Prom was afterward -- buying alcohol legally and taking a guy back to my apartment.
My date for the night was a cop I was dating. His favorite thing to do was watch videos of himself busting people. He was also an amateur boxer, and I found it simultaneously exhilarating and horrifying when he would break someone's face.
He didn't really have a good sense of humor about the whole prom thing. He spent the whole night itching to arrest kids.
P.S. I Love You July 12, 12:14 p.m. I'm moving cubicles, which I suppose is one way for me to clean my desk.
While I was bulldozing my file cabinet, I found one of my all-time favorite piece of hate mail. A classic, if you will. It is perfect in every way.
It's from Gail in Indio.
Gail cut out my column and scrawled the Desert Sun address and phone number across the page in purple ink. She circled my name twice and put an asterisk next to my photo -- the footnote of which is "VERY TACKY!!!"
And then Gail writes: "What kind of language is this?!"
The offending sentence? I used the word "bum" to refer to someone's rear.
At the end of the column, I'm waxing poetic about the desert and say, "If there's a more breathtaking landscape on Earth, I have yet to see it." Under which Gail writes, "Get some videos on Europe."
Not "Go to Europe" or "You should see Europe," but "Get some VIDEOS about Europe."
And then there's a sticker of a yellow ribbon that says "Support Our Troops."
One Jazzy Boozer (With Discriminating Taste) July 10, 1:51 p.m. Of course celebrities always travel with special demands listed in their rider.
Van Halen famously demanded bowls of M&Ms, minus all the brown ones. Mariah Carey always requests Cristal with bendy straws. The guys from Pearl Jam are big into juicing and ask for pounds of beets, carrots, oranges and celery, plus a carton of Marlboro Reds.
Vampire Cat Death Stare July 10, 12:05 p.m. My boyfriend has been out of town. And aside from the illicit activity and a revolving door of male hookers, my time has been spent reading and writing and taking photos of me and the cat.
Like this one:
Do you see how much my cat loathes me taking pictures of him? There's nothing but hatred in those eyes.
Your Top Five July 09, 4:59 p.m. Over the weekend a couple of my friends and I talked about our top five lists -- you know, the five people you are "allowed" to bang, even if you are involved in a monogamous relationship.
My list has definitely evolved over the years. I met Ludacris and discovered that I'm about a foot taller than him, which wasn't sexy. Ben Affleck was replaced by people with more substance. And Jude Law pretty much crashed off the list.
Here's how it stands right now:
5. Dave Eggers -- I know it's kind of a cliche to love the whole McSweeney's publishing house, but I do. Dave Eggers writes with so much heart and humor, and everything he touches turns to gold. He's a literary revolutionary. Besides, he had a pirate store way before Johnny Depp made pirates cool.
4. Andrew Bird -- My, what as large vocabulary he has! And he's also a musical genius. His new album, "Armchair Apocrypha," is haunting and dreamy, and his live show is absolutely stunning. Just watch what he did at Coachella:
My friend Deborah and I stalked him that day, around the port-a-potties in the VIP section. Eventually he noticed the two creepy girls following him, and he ran away.
3. Jason Schwartzman -- He acts! He sings! He's in movies I love! Plus, he's got that rumpled, scruffy grad student look about him, which I love. Lately I've been obsessively listening to his new electronica music project, Coconut Records.
Check out this video for his song, Nighttiming. The hilarious lip-synching is done by his brother:
2. Ira Glass -- I like 'em nerdy, obviously. And I love people who can tell a damn fine story. I can't go a week without my fix of his radio show, "This American Life," which I always download to my iPod.
1. Johnny Knoxville -- Because lighting firecrackers in your butt is funny.
And then, of course, there's Angelina Jolie who holds some sort of ultra-number one position on the list. My list, and everybody else's list. Because I believe that regardless of age, race or gender, if anybody has the opportunity to sleep with her, they should. Not for love or affection, but just because you know she's a freak.
The Lake House July 05, 11:29 a.m. It was scorching hot on the desert floor. I thought my head was going to explode.
Thankfully, I was working on a piece about daytrips to escape the heat, which just happened to coincide with the Fourth of July holiday, which just happened to coincide with my friends going to their lake house ...
And that's how the Boyfriend and I found ourselves at Lake Arrowhead for a couple amazing days.
The place is a wholesome slice of Americana, all hot dogs and apple pie and friendly dogs and kids jumping off the dock into the lake.
One of the highlights was a wonderful July 3 meal of salmon, rice, salad, angel food cake and berries, eaten OUTSIDE! It was almost chilly, too. And this was the (very green) view:
* Meditating outside in the morning with my friend's husband, surrounded by chirping birds and a soft breeze blowing through the pine trees.
* Drinking champagne with another Maggie who loves the bubbly just as much as I do.
* Curling up at night on the bed with this dog, the cutest pup in the world. (I so miss having a dog.)
* Hiking the shoreline trail that loops around the lake, and feeling incredibly happy and loved and blessed.
Party Out of Bounds July 02, 4:37 p.m. Today is my fourth straight day of partying.
It's not as debaucherous as you think. It was no binge worthy of Li-Lo or Paris or anyone like that. But it was absolutely my favorite type of weekend -- a non-stop whirlwind of my favorite friends, food, fun, music and more.
Friday night was an editor's birthday celebration at the Yardhouse. (Happy birthday, Rick!) It's been a long time since I've had beer, so I enjoyed a couple pints of dark, rich, stouty stuff. Yum. I like beer that feels like I just drank a sack of potatoes.
On Saturday I had a tasting party for a super-secret thing I'll be writing about soon. (Shhh. You'll know all about it soon enough!)
That was followed by a dinner party with some new artist friends. They are macrobiotic vegans, and all the food was homemade with love, with every course more sumptuous than the last. Plus, the company could not have been better -- it was a group that included professors, magazine editors and all-around bright, talented, beautiful people.
Sunday was my monthly poker game. I actually don't play anymore, even though I still host the parties -- I'm way to hyper for poker, and I get bored by sitting in one place for so long. So my boyfriend ran the party while I went shopping and did other things.
And tonight my writing group is coming over. I'm cooking, and then we'll do some freewriting exercises. I can't wait.
Don't Make the Baby Jesus Cry June 28, 1:45 p.m. Top 10 reasons to go see "Godspell" at Palm Canyon Theatre:
10. Because everybody loves a singing Jesus.
9. Going to the theatre makes you appear more handsome and intellectual.
8. Seriously, a person can only watch so many bad summer movies. This is your alternative to "Die Hard."
7. To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly.
6. So cheap! ($24, or $10 for students.)
5. Some people call it blasphemy, which means it must be good.
4. Cool cast: Daryl Jones as the charismatic Jesus, Zylo Corey as the revolutionary Judas/John The Baptist, Douglas McDonald as playful Jeffrey, Nathan Lee Kamar as sweet Lamar, Eric Olson as class clown Herb, Carissa Campbell as tomboy Robin, Kaitlyn Farley as show-off Joanne, Jennifer Paulk as shy Peggy, Carrie Hannah as sassy Sonia, and Hannah Covington as goofy Gilmer. Holla!
3. The actors and crew work so hard. I know for a fact they have been rehearsing without air conditioning, and it's like 300 degrees out there.
2. This is really your only opportunity to see Pharisees in downtown Palm Springs.
1. What else are you going to do that's fun and fabulous?
"Godspell" is at Palm Canyon Theatre, from June 29 to July 17. Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Disgusting Litterbug June 25, 4:57 p.m. I couldn't believe what I saw at the intersection of 111 and Highway 74.
Someone in the passenger seat of a little green car just tossed a drink out the window, ice, straw, cup and all.
Seriously. Litter? Isn't that so '80s?
I mean, who litters anymore? And in broad daylight? I feel like if people actually want to litter, they should be doing it in secret, like after midnight in some back alley somewhere.
After the stoplight turned green, I even drove up next to the car and looked at the people inside, just to gauge if it had been some kind of mistake. Like, "Oh, here I was sipping my icy cool Diet Coke, and then the darned thing fell from my hands and onto the street."
But no. There was no remorse on that guy's face.
It was just open window, toss drink.
I don't even understand WHY. What's the point? Was this guy thinking, "Oh my goodness. I just cannot stand to have THIS CUP in THIS CAR for ONE MORE SECOND. I must get rid of it this instant."
The only possible excuse is that the cup started talking to him or turned into Satan or something. If that were the case, I would be absolutely in favor of tossing a cup into the street. But absolute surprise or horror aside, NO EXCUSE.
I know it's probably really lame for me to get all het up over something like this, but geez -- what a tool.
Friday Mixtape! June 22, 3:31 p.m. In honor of the completely awesome Pet Expo tomorrow, here's my Smoochy Poochy afternoon pet mix:
Dogs of Lust -- The The Diamond Dogs -- David Bowie China Cat Sunflower -- Grateful Dead Lovecats -- The Cure The Rat -- The Walkmen Birdhouse in Your Soul -- They Might Be Giants The Dog Song -- Nellie McKay Rabbit Hole -- Year of the Rabbit I Wanna Be Your Dog -- The Stooges Cat's in the Cradle -- Harry Chapin All the King's Horses -- Joss Stone Meow Meow Lullaby -- Nada Surf
Things the CW Network Could Have Re-Titled the Kevin Williamson Project "Palm Springs" Instead of Bothering to Name it "Hidden Palms" June 20, 2:26 p.m. 1. Hidden in a Bad Time Slot 2. Terrible Marketing & Palm Trees 3. Why Bother Because We're Just Going to Cancel This in Three Weeks Anyway?
Celebrate Your Freedom June 19, 12:45 p.m. If you're not already celebrating Juneteenth today, you should be.
Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and is the oldest national celebration of the end of slavery.
Why is this important to you?
Because the struggle for freedom continues today in different and more virulent ways, in our own country and around the world.
Today you should celebrate emancipation by making your voice heard: Speak up in the face of injustice, share your personal experiences, start a conversation in your community, learn more about the struggle for freedom around the globe and write a letter to your political representatives.
Cooling Off Under the Dessert Sky June 18, 2:03 p.m.
Was it just me? Or was the heat dragging everyone down this weekend?
The Boyfriend and I spent a lot of time bickering and/or pouting. And then we spent a LOT of time napping in an effort to escape the heat -- and each other.
Here's the weekend in a nutshell:
"What's wrong with you?" "Nothing. Except I'm hot. And I'm bored. And oh, I hate you." "Yeah. I feel the same way."
We tried going to the mall. We tried pointing fans at our faces. Nothing worked. Not even swimming provided respite from the heat -- the pool was about 90 degrees.
Then, Sunday night, I found two coupons for free frozen yogurt at Golden Spoon in Rancho Mirage.
I didn't even know what Golden Spoon was; I just wanted to get out of the damn house and feel something cold besides an icy demeanor.
I had frozen yogurt that was flavored like cake batter. The Boyfriend had some weirdness, something like Heath Bar mixed with mint chocolate.
We were are stern and sulky as we sat inside the place, silently slurping up our dessert.
"I'm cold," I finally said, shattering the dead air. "I can't feel my toes."
"I have goosebumps," he said.
We finished our yogurt sitting outside by the fountain on the corner of the street.
I didn't even know the place was there, that fountain. It was the kind of place where my friends and I hung out when I was in high school. We would make up stupid games and dance in fountains and moon the cars that drove past.
And so last night, under a squid-black sky with a sliver of a moon, The Boyfriend and I talked and danced and told silly stories. And even though I had been cold in the yogurt shop, it was the first time all weekend that I really cooled off.
It's FRIDAY! ... June 15, 2:56 p.m. And I can't tell you how relieved I am. I've been a wee bit stressed out and overwhelmed, barely able to keep from sinking in the sand. Then my best friend and I had a knock-down, drag-out fight, which completely exhausted me and sucked me dry.
Things are better now.
I have a full weekend of pool parties and sangria and hiking in the mountains to help me recover.
I've already loaded my iPod with some trusty chill songs ... it's my "Sweat the 110 Degrees Away" mix. (Kinda heavy on the French pop, but that's what I've been into nowadays.)
Go to iTunes, download and enjoy.
Speaking in Tongues -- Eagles of Death Metal Hard to Beat -- Hard-Fi Hell Yes -- Beck J'aime la Bourgeoisie (vive le rock) -- Numero Je Veux te Voir -- Yelle Long Distance Call -- Phoenix The Rejection -- Dangerous Muse Collarbone -- Fujiya & Miyagi L'Amour A 3 -- Stereo Total Get it Shawty -- Lloyd The Comeback -- Shout Out Louds Punk Rocker -- Teddybears Keep the Car Running -- The Arcade Fire Gold Soundz -- Pavement Jogging Gorgeous Summer -- Islands Her, You and I -- The Changes
I hope Kevin Williamson googles himself June 14, 4:27 p.m. Dear Kevin Williamson,
I have a few suggestions for you and your CW show, "Hidden Palms," a moody teen drama that takes place in Palm Springs:
1. Hire me! Take me on as an intern! I can help make the teenage dialogue actually seem plausible. Also, I am super creative and can deliver wild plot twists to add another sinster layer of mystery.
2. Humor. I love the suspenseful and surreal "Twin Peaks" vibe. I really do. But "Hidden Palms" is begging for some brevity. Honestly, we're not all that hot and depressed all the time in the desert.
3. Figure out something to do with Greta. Why does she look wildly different in every episode? Are you hiring different actresses and hoping nobody will notice? I think she got a new face for episode 3.
4. Turn this into the Cliff show. Nobody cares about Johnny. Cliff is way more interesting, even if he is a puppy-kicking psycho. (Actually, BECAUSE he is a puppy-kicking psycho.)
Seriously. I'm a big fan of your work, and I want to keep this show on the air. Help me help you.
The Tale of the $75 Tank Top June 12, 5:42 p.m. On Saturday I participated in the Girlfriend Factor's El Paseo Shopping Challenge, in which local merchants offered goodie bags, discounts and all sorts of fun things for everybody participating in the Ultimate Pajama Party.
I started my shopping day at Dot, where there was a big beefy guy named Cole serving free bellinis to shoppers.
Now, I'm not even about muscle men. That's not my type.
And yet, Cole had that Mr. Clean thing happening. He was really tall and attractive and he followed me around the store to keep my glass full of bellini. I admit, I was a little wooed.
I tried on one shirt. When I was done and walked out of the dressing room, Cole was there. "What? I don't get to see?" he said, making a little pouty face.
"Uh, no," I stammered. "It's not really my thing." And at that point, I had every intention of leaving the store.
"Will you let me pick out something for you?" he said.
"I dunno. I mean, no. I'm leaving. Too expensive."
But Cole insisted. "Come on. I just want to see you in something really beautiful," he said. "Like this outfit right here. Just try it on. With your hair, this would be stunning. You're such a gorgeous woman anyway."
I don't know what came over me, but suddenly I was less of a thrifty, kickass feminist and more of a drooling pile of "Pretty Woman" goo. Like, I just wanted the big strong man to dress me up and make me pretty.
I went into the dressing room with a pile of stuff.
With the new clothes on my body, Cole made me do a little runway strut and twirl for him.
"My God. You look amazing," he said. "You're so hot in that."
"OK," I said instantly. "I'll take it. Wrap this up."
Only later, when I was signing my name at the bottom of the credit card slip, did I realize that I had just paid close to $75 for a tank top. A plain teal tank top. It doesn't even blink or talk or anything.
That's also when I noticed the store's return policy, which basically is nonexistant.
So I paid $75 for a tank top. I rarely even spend that on an entire outfit. I'm appalled. (But I rationalized it because I didn't spend anything else that day, and I figure I'll feel really good about myself every time I wear it.)
That night Cole showed up at the pajama party I was attending. I had already knocked back a couple of glasses of wine, so all I could do was shake my fist and say, "Seventy-five dollars!"
Also, later I found out that Cole is just a wee 20-year-old, which totally grossed me out. Ew. I could be his grandmother. That's such a Demi Moore move.
The ULTIMATE Slumber Party June 06, 10:52 a.m. As much as we love the boys, this here is a girls-only post.
The biggest, best, most fantastic slumber party of the year is this weekend, courtesy of The Girlfriend Factor -- and there's still time for you to sign up and enjoy the fun.
Here's what's in store for you:
FRIDAY NIGHT: Food, drinks, karaoke and a Ben & Jerry's sundae buffet. And did I mention the mechanical bull? Oh hells yeah.
SATURDAY DAY: Poolside massages and fun at the resort. Also, a shopping challenge along El Paseo, where many of the merchants will be offering special discounts and goodies for anyone wearing PJ bottoms and an event wristband. (My favorite is Dot, where they will have hunky guys serving up bellinis and a buy-two-get-one-free deal.)
SATURDAY NIGHT: This is when the party really gets rolling with a Mediterranean feast from East Meets West catering. And then drag queen bingo, where some gorgeous drag queens will be calling all the numbers. It's so fun.
Plus, everything will be taking place at the super-chic MOD Resort in Palm Desert. (Looky here: http://www.modresort.com)
Can't stay the whole weekend? That's OK. You can pay for each portion separately. And you don't have to stay the whole night.
Best of all, the event benefits the Girlfriend Factor, a Palm Desert-based non-profit that is all about women helping women.
This is your chance to meet a great group of women and have fun while doing something extraordinary and completely unique.
For more info, go here: http://girlfriendfactor.org/
Questions? Or just want to RSVP your spot? Call 772-9594.
You won't be sorry. I mean it. This is the event of the decade.
I swear to God I am not making this up June 05, 2:22 p.m. There were two swans at Lake Mirage in Rancho Mirage who loved each other. Swans, as you probably know, mate for life -- so they were ridiculously happy, and everything was as it should be.
Then a wild swan flew in, probably from the Marriott.
That swan was a slut. In fact, the people in the neighborhood named her Charlotte the Harlot, because she preened her feathers and strutted her stuff and blew little beak kisses until the happy swan couple broke up.
Now the boy swan has taken up full-time with his swan mistress, while the lonely swan wife sits alone on the shore.
It is so sad. Nature has gotten so promiscuous.
I guess the lesson here is the next time someone calls you a hussy, just say that you learned it from the swans.
Back to the Future June 04, 4:20 p.m. On Saturday I hiked up the south end of the Lykken Trail, where Mesquite Avenue runs into the mountains.
I had my Camelbak of water hung over my shoulders, an iPod blaring "This American Life" in my ears.
I walked for a good hour or so before the day really started to heat up, with my face red, my skin throbbing, my body pouring with sweat.
As I came down the mountain, a few cars were parked on the road at the base of the trail. And they were all Model Ts.
My first thought was, "Did I hike through time?"
The more I thought about that, the more I loved the idea, and I was kind of excited to see if maybe I was back in 1920. I could bob my hair! I could be a flapper! I could see Babe Ruth play for the Yankees!
And then I realized I couldn't charge my iPod, and the idea didn't seem so cool anymore.
"It's a #$@%ing desert, you guys." June 03, 10:03 a.m. Mindy Kaling, who plays Kelly on "The Office," has a shopping blog on the world wide interweb, right heres: http://mindyephron.blogspot.com/
(Having a little trouble with the hyperlink. Sorry.)
For Memorial Day weekend, she hiked in Joshua Tree, dined at the Twentynine Palms Inn and shopped at Desert Hills Premium Outlets.
From the sound of it, she had a great time:
"All in all, this was a surprisingly fantastic little vacation out of a place I thought would be full of dirty sand and ugly lizards. It was completely tranquil and hot and stunning out there and I would go again. Make sure to bring sunblock spf 1000 though ..."
The Boyfriend was watching a movie, while I was dozing on the couch with the cat sprawled across my chest.
All of a sudden everything felt tumbly and sounded all rumbly.
The cat FREAKED OUT. Every hair on his body stood on end.
I automatically lept into action, grabbing flashlights and cellphones and filling containers with water. (Hey, a Midwestern girl doesn't necessarily know what 4.2 feels like. This could have been a 15.0 for all I know.)
How fun! (And also a little frightening.)
The cat is still a little wired, and my hands are slightly shaky. I know this was just a baby tremblor, but I guess I should start taking this earthquake stuff more seriously.
Maybe someone here can tell me this -- what makes noise during an earthquake? I know I heard things go boom.
Is it simply from the houses moving and settling? Or does the earth actually create a rumbling sound?
Overheard in the Theater May 30, 2:56 p.m. I usually stay away from movie theaters because of the crowds; specifically, the rude people who talk loudly throughout the film.
But last night I went to the theater to see "Knocked Up," because, hey -- free screening. Who can argue with that?
Unfortunately, we still had to deal with the chatterboxes.
When the film showed the point of conception, the lady behind me yelled, "Oh no! She's going to get pregnant!"
Now, I don't know what "knocked up" means to this woman, but I went into the movie anticipating that one of the characters would get pregnant.
Maybe she didn't see the commercials.
Later, after a scene featured Joanna Kerns, a guy behind me said to his friends, "I know that lady! Do you remember her? She was the mom from 'Silver Spoons.' Or er ... not 'Silver Spoons.' Maybe it was 'Family Ties.' 'Family Pains?' 'Growing Ties?' You know -- that show with Michael Keaton. "
Jury Schmury May 22, 2:29 p.m. I know this is my civic duty and all, but man ... jury duty? Why, God, why?
I think there's a loophole, though. Supposedly the juror needs to be a rational, impartial person.
I just need to go in there, all crazy-like, with lipstick smeared all over my face and bloodshot eyes and making all sorts of noise about "The probe! The dang aliens got me with their probe! And I love the death penalty! Bliggidy-bloo!"
And maybe then they won't want me.
But, then again, that might rocket me to the top of their list.
McSneezy May 15, 09:19 a.m. Lately the desert has been making me sneeze more than ever. And these aren't tiny, girly ah-choos either. These sneezes are born in the gut. They're deep and loud and operatic. Sometimes I think my eyes are going to pop out of my skull, like in the cartoons.
So this morning I was riding my bike when one of The Sneezes hit me. As I sneezed, my hands instinctively grabbed the brakes. The bike came to a screeching halt, and I came very close to flipping over the handlebars.
Friday at the Movies May 14, 5:32 p.m. On Friday night, the Boyfriend and I joined another couple for the outdoor movies they show at the Gardens at El Paseo.
(Aside: It's a fantastic deal -- $10 for a movie, two glasses of wine and snacks. We saw a selection of itty bitty films from the Palm Springs Shortfest, and they were great.)
Because we hadn't eaten dinner, the Boyfriend and I grabbed some to-go salads from Sammy's Woodfired Pizza.
Just as the films were about to start, I popped open the takeout container and discovered my grilled shrimp salad was actually something of the poultry variety. I did not want that, and it was not what I had ordered.
I returned to the restaurant and explained the problem to the guy at the takeout stand. He didn't say a word. Just grabbed the salad from my hands and walked away.
Several minutes and no apology later, I was handed a grilled shrimp salad.
Then a lady walked out from the back and gave me a coupon that is good for a free Giant Messy Sundae with the purchase of any menu item.
I'm happy to know they value customer service, as long as I buy something else. Like, "Hey, here's a prize -- but not really."
I actually like Sammy's, and this is the only time I've ever had hospitality issues, so I'll give them another shot. Besides, I need to collect on my sundae.
On Saturday, my friends had a going-away bowling party for a co-worker who is moving to Maui.
When I was renting my shoes, the shoe lady told me that she used to be 5'10" -- but a couple years ago, she shrunk to 5'8". Meanwhile, her feet grew from a size 10 to an 11.
"I'm growing OUT!" she said.
Then I talked to the bartender about getting a special drink for my friend. He doesn't drink alcohol, but I thought they could do some sort of virgin daquiri or something.
The bartender shook his head no.
"Anything with an umbrella?"
"I got nuthin'" he said.
Then he told me that the alley used to stock cherries. But then all the bowling alley employees started coming by and eating all of his cherries. It was cherries all day, all the time. Some of them existed on cherry-only diets.
Maybe that's what causes a person to shrink two inches and grow out from their feet.
In Anticipation of Sadness May 12, 7:11 p.m. My best friend came up with a fantastic way to spend Mother's Day.
See, my best friend's mom passed away. And my mom is in a nursing home and doesn't remember who I am.
So every year from now on, my friend and I are going to take turns flying across the country to see each other -- and we're going to go to an amusement park where we'll ride roller coasters and eat cotton candy and laugh and remember all the good things about our moms.
It's one of the most genius things I've ever heard.
Today I was skimming spinner.com, when I came across a story about the British band Fields, who spent a swanky night in Palm Springs before Coachella.
The story says:
Two weeks ago, the band was sipping cocktails poolside at Frank Sinatra's former Palm Springs pad. "That was very surreal and brilliant," Peill tells Spinner. "I don't know how much time we spent there, but it's a really beautiful kind of '60s style bungalow. It was [full of] cool kids dancing and jumping in the pool."
And it turns out, Peill and his dream rock co-horts discovered wonders in Frank's former palace too. "The toilet was full of his old records," Peill says. "All of his albums were framed up on the wall. It was nice, very tasteful."
New Blog on the Way May 07, 4:39 p.m. By now you all probably know that The Desert Sun is launching a new website.
It's going to be super cool and include all sorts of interactive things -- which means if you want to get involved with your community and your local news, you can.
It also means a new blog for me.
Very! Exciting! Stuff!
I'm most excited about the comments feature, which will allow you guys to respond to my posts ... and will allow me to stop feeling as though I'm typing into a dark and faceless void.
So I'm in the process of selecting a name for said blog right now. If you really hate "The Desert Diaries" (which was only intended to be a temporary name anyway), this is your chance to speak up and help me change it. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (See, this is where a comments feature would come in handy.)
Also, I'll be changing my photo, which some folks have complained about in the past. I've been told I look like Bridget Jones in a casket. Apparently closed eyes = dead.
Rollin' Down to Stagecoach May 07, 3:09 p.m. I headed over to the Stagecoach festival on Saturday. Mostly I wanted to check out how it compares to Coachella. (Hint: It's different!)
But I also like Robert Earl Keen, and I've never seen him perform live before. And I wanted to see Willie again; I only caught a little bit of his show last weekend. And I want to be Neko Case when I grow up.
Here are a few snapshots from the down-home party:
That Earl Scruggs is a ferocious performer.
Yikes! The fans have begun to clone themselves.
How hot was the music? You couldn't keep your shirt on. (And neither could the chicks in the beer tent. They were flashing for tips.)
Of all the great things about the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, one of the best is that for three days I'm surrounded by music nerds.
They know how to pronounce !!!. They can tell you that Tokyo Police Club actually hails from Canada. They knew the Fratellis long before the iPod commercial. They know Mika is a boy. They think the Black Keys went downhill in 2003. And they believe Arcade Fire is the biggest band in the world.
These are my people.
It still makes me laugh, though, when I hear exchanges like this in the parking lot after the show:
GUY 1: MSTRKRAFT rocked the house.
GUY 2: Hell yeah. But that guy on the right side of the stage, what was he doing?
GUY 1: I know, right? Did he think he was in We Are Scientists?
Coachella: It's Ours April 23, 2:24 p.m. I get a little thrill every time I see the Coachella Music & Arts Festival mentioned in national/international media.
(Of course, I'm also 12 years old, so my thrill is of the "Neener, neener!" variety. Ha, suckas! You have to book hotels! And travel! And we're right here!)
Some items of interest:
The Wall Street Journal had a recent feature about music festivals and their pricy VIP tickets.
The story says: "Music festivals are going after an older, wealthier crowd this summer with more mainstream acts, higher-priced tickets and a slate of VIP perks ... Holders of American Express Gold Cards have received a special offer for the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in California; for $549 -- more than double the regular price -- they get entry to the only cocktail bar on the grounds."
Also, the New York Times had an excellent article about the fantastic reunion shows that make Coachella such a hot ticket. (For example, Rage Against the Machine this year, the Pixies in 2004, the Stooges in 2003 and so on ...)
The story says: "What about that weird web of logic that made $249 for a three-day pass to the Coachella Festival next weekend seem an allowable expense, because you’d be seeing Rage Against the Machine, the radical-leftist punk-funk band that wrote timely songs challenging the domination of real-life power structures until 2000, when it ceased to exist?"
And I'll include another part of the story, just because it made me laugh out loud: "Isn’t it more accurate to see music as music, and not as philosophy or policy? (Put it another way: If you admired Rage specifically for being a forthright radical-left political band, how could you ever forgive it for being absent through George W. Bush’s presidency to this point, only showing up after the Democratic landslide of the midterm elections?)"
Good week April 18, 3:37 p.m. I promise I'll stop talking about my vacation soon. It's just that my body is here, but my head is still back in last week.
Here are the highlights:
Dinner at Robin's Restaurant, the cutest little place in Cambria. Hundreds of frogs croaking all night in San Simeon. Touring the gorgeous Hearst Castle where I got the OFFICIAL official proposal from The Boyfriend.
Finding pocketfuls of jade in beach coves. Exploring tide pools. Writing messages in the sand. Walking together next to the ocean.
Freaking out at the price of gas in Big Sur. ($4.45!! For the CHEAP stuff!) Making friends. Waiting for the sun to set on the patio at Nepenthe.
Camping out. A smoky campsite fire. Waking up under the redwoods.
Hiking along the coast. Stumbling upon the quirky Henry Miller Library. Breakfast at Deetjen's.
Making the 17-mile drive around Pebble Beach.
More beauty than I could handle.
Catching up with friends at their swanky new pad in Russian Hill. Cherry blossoms in the Japanese Tea Garden. Thick and hot coffee in North Beach. City Lights bookstore. Driving down Lombard Street. Dim sum in Chinatown. A rainy ferry to Alcatraz. A rocky road cupcake and acoustic guitar. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl.
(I haven't uploaded those photos yet.)
It was amazing.
For you guys at home who didn't join me on the road trip, I do have a special surprise ... here's a little game you can play. I call it, "Where's Maggie?"
Pitching a Tent April 08, 00:55 a.m. The debacle has already begun.
The boyfriend and I leave tomorrow for vacation, and which will involve some camping.
I've never really camped out before. (The Bonnaroo music fest doesn't count -- that was just passing out among thousands of hippies, with a grilled cheese vendor no more than 10 feet away at any given moment.)
So tonight the boyfriend and I were at a little party and we mentioned the camping thing. And then some guy jokingly said, "Hey, you did make sure your air mattress fits the tent, right?"
And we were like, "Uh, we need to go."
Because we haven't. We haven't looked at the tent at all. We just borrowed the thing from a friend of ours, and then we bought a nice queen-size air mattress this afternoon for extra comfort.
We just ASSUMED that the two things would fit together.
But you know what I've learned? Never assume anything about a tent called The Tadpole.
The Tadpole is small. It's not people-sized. Especially when one of those people is well over 6 feet in heels. (That would be me.)
It actually looks like some ancient fertility dome -- cram more than one person in this thing and they're making babies.
And we don't want babies. Not yet.
So I just returned from a trip to Wal-Mart where I bought a tent big enough for the air mattress and maybe a recliner or two. It even has a lanai. I think it's called The Tremendous 3000.
It's no Tadpole, that's for sure.
Anyway, I'm out for a week. And I forgot to turn on the out-of-office autoreply on my work email. So if you're trying to contact me ... well, too bad, so sad.
I'll share pics when I get back. Wish me luck in the wilderness!
I'm About to Contact NASA April 05, 4:28 p.m. Has anybody else noticed that Rancho Mirage is a gigantic black hole?
Nothing personal, Rancho Mirage. I think you're great. You look fabulous. Have you been working out?
Even so, every time I drive through the place, my cell phone calls are dropped. There's also this Bermuda Triange at the intersection of Monterey and Dinah Shore where I always lose signal on my satellite radio.
I can understand the cell phone thing with those huge mountains and all.
But no satellite radio signal? What causes you to lose THAT? Is there a big bubble over the place? Is Costco sending out some sort of secret interference?
I mean, I even get signal in the desertest of desert. I had signal in Amboy. And yet, I lose it in Rancho Mirage. What the hell is going on?
The truth is out there. I'm just not sure what it is.
Dinah in the news April 02, 10:33 a.m. Anyone else see the Sunday New York Times style piece about the Dinah Shore parties?
In case you didn't, here are some of the most interesting parts of the article:
* They describe the party like this: "In the years B.E. (Before Ellen DeGeneres), the Dinah was the province of mostly polo-shirted women seeking a low-key getaway. Now, in the years A.L. (After "The L Word"), it has been transformed into a fashionable bacchanal, nearly a week long, with celebrity guests like Carmen Electra and Joan Jett, large pool parties and dozens of corporate sponsors."
* The story says that when the Dinah was portrayed on The L Word's first season, the scenes were actually filmed in Vancouver. What's up with that, Canada?
* It was interesting how the event is becoming a promoter's dream. From the story: "Once an advertising pariah, the event has become an attractive place to promote their wares, from clothing boutiques and brand-name liquors to television shows and sperm banks." That's pretty true. I love the shopping at Dinah -- you'll never find cuter undies or tees anywhere else. I didn't see any sperm banks, though.
* Also, a spokesperson from Finlandia Vodka (a major sponsor for this and the men's White Party in April), says in the story: "The women drink 40 percent more than the guys." You know, my friends and I had that exact conversation during the pool party on Saturday, but we drew the opposite conclusion. The men sure seem a lot drunker at White Party. Maybe the women just drink more vodka?
Anyway, it was another fun weekend -- I love Dinah.
Oh So Tired April 02, 10:11 a.m. Is anyone else tired after this weekend, what with the Dinah Shore parties and the art shows and the Indio Grand Prix and the Sunday brunches and the cocktails by the pool and the tennis and the wine and the long dinners with friends?
This lady at the Wyndham Resort on Saturday sure feels my pain:
Cold weather March 21, 1:36 p.m. Last night I went to The Falls in La Quinta to celebrate a friend's birthday. It was frigid outside, but I didn't wear a jacket; I just assumed we would be sitting inside the building.
And I was wrong.
We sat outside on the blustery, chilly night, and the restaurant didn't have any heat lamps.
I hunched over and pulled my cotton cardigan around my arms. I was wearing just a thin skirt, so I sat on my legs to keep them warm.
It was too cold for the mojito I really wanted to order, so I sipped on coffee and Bailey's.
Eventually, the eight of us began pulling tablecloths off the surrounding bistro tables and using them as blankets.
The waiter laughed and then brought us another stack of tablecloths.
"Here are some more blankets for you guys!"
We wrapped them like shawls around our shivery bodies.
My friends and family back home in 20-degree weather might disagree, but damn ... 60 degrees here is COLD.
And no, it's not nearly as scandalous as it sounds. (Well, it sounded slightly more dirty when I mispronounced it and told everyone I was having a Ditka.)
A deeksha is a blessing of oneness in which a guru transfers their spiritual energy into you.
And if I'm ever a guru, that will TOTALLY be my pick-up line.
There were two gurus at the ritual, actually. One was a wiry and owlish older man, the other a beautiful and golden woman.
First the man placed his open hands upon my head while I sat quietly with my eyes closed. Next the lady walked behind me and rested her hands on me -- my head, then my shoulders. Then she pressed her palms together like the classic prayer pose and held her hands above my head again.
I tried to think peaceful and joyful thoughts, but sometimes my mind strayed: My boyfriend. Our recent bathroom flood. The Amazing Race.
Also, halfway through the ritual, I remembered that I hadn't turned my cellphone off. So a good portion of my energy was directed toward the phone, which I was mentally commanding to not ring.
Hey, I don't want to piss off a guru.
Honestly, it was an awesome and powerful ritual. I'm not sure that it accomplished anything. I don't actually feel different today.
But supposedly the spiritual energy travels through your body and works where you need it most. Kind of like Advil.
So it's possible that even I don't know where my deeksha has taken me yet.
And I will say this: It was nice to having someone praying for me. I mean, beyond the normal "I'm praying for your terrible soul" prayers that I get from so many readers.
It just felt good to have these people standing with me, holding me with comforting hands and hoping the best for me -- even if it was only for a few minutes.
Opera in the Desert March 16, 3:42 p.m. I went to THE BEST party last night.
Sherry Halperin -- author of "Rescue Me, He's Wearing a Moose Hat" -- hosted a night of opera and champagne at her La Quinta home.
The singers included the lovely Janet Hopkins, a soprano with the Metropolitan Opera, who commutes from the desert to New York, as well as performers Melody Kielisch and Giorgio Aristo.
Opera is really powerful anyway, but it's even bigger and better in someone's living room.
It was one of those super-sensory experiences that awakens everything in you. My hair tingled, I had goosebumps, I nearly wept. There just aren't enough words for that kind of beauty.
As the night wore on and the champagne flowed, the singers got sillier. They danced and sang funny songs -- one tune was done entirely in meows. A violinist joined the wonderful pianist Dennis Alexander. Sherry jumped in on the bongos.
I can't believe I forgot my camera. I'm kicking myself.
Although, sometimes you just can't capture that kind of magic anywhere except in your mind. Maybe it's better this way.
Busy Girl! March 14, 10:18 p.m. I feel like I've been running all the time lately, zipping from one interview to another. I've barely had time to come into the office and check e-mails or return phone calls.
And spending time on some of the big projects I have going on? Forget it.
I don't mind. I like being busy, and I know this is season and that's how things go during this time of year. I'm just tired and living on a lot of caffeine.
I Cannot Stop Myself March 13, 09:17 a.m. I need a button. Or some sort of switch. Because sometimes I do not have boundaries. Sometimes I cannot stop myself from doing the things I know I should not do.
Take Saturday, for instance.
I was in the "Faith and Begorrah" fashion show at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort. It's a beautiful and lovely event, created by Pattie Daly Caruso, to benefit Desert Samaritans.
I was wearing a casual chocolate brown dress, borrowed from Escada. Very sweet. Very cute.
And then the music started. And there were all these lights and cameras. And it was my turn to walk the catwalk.
I knew what I had to do.
You remember that sexy? I brought it back.
I strutted down the runway, paused, and then spanked my own ass. And I think I purred and pawed at the crowd. I might have even hissed a little.
As soon as I did it, I regretted it. This was a dignified event, put together for a really great cause. And there I was, totally pulling a Zoolander.
1. The new "Arcade Fire" album is good. Really good. I listened to it all day yesterday and all morning today.
Grab a couple songs off iTunes if you must -- I suggest "Intervention," "(Antichrist Television Blues)" and "Keep the Car Running." But really, the album is a great cohesive unit and should be listened to from start to finish.
I am so excited to see them at Coachella, there just aren't enough words.
2. The Roy Lichtenstein exhibit at the Palm Springs Art Museum ends on Sunday. Go see it now while you still have a chance.
The museum even has free public admission every Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. Stop by during Village Fest!
3. Dezart One Gallery will be having a dessert party from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday. They'll have delicious treats, coffee from Koffi and, of course, some fabulous artwork.
They're located at 2688 Cherokee Way in Palm Springs, behind the Mercedes dealership on Highway 111.
I celebrated the boyfriend's birthday by taking him on a surprise road trip on Saturday.
I packed a little picnic lunch and drove up into the mountains to Julian, a historic little gold mining town.
He likes mines and caves and all sorts of dank and dark things, so the guided gold mine tour was the first stop on the list.
The boyfriend is also a fan of apple pie, so next on the list was the Julian Pie Company. His slice of Dutch Apple Crumble with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream was so rich and decadent, he couldn't even finish it all. And that boy likes pie.
We never got around to everything else I had planned, because there's one very important thing I neglected to put on the list.
That is, places in the mountains are cold.
Julian was chilly and cloudy, and we were not appropriately dressed. Not even close.
So we had our little picnic -- albeit inside my car -- then drove back to places that are warmer and sunnier.
I knew the airline employee at gate F3 was lying to me, and there was nothing I could do about it.
My flight out of Fort Lauderdale was delayed by two hours. I only had an hour-and-a-half between connections. There was no way it could work.
"You'll be fine," the liar said.
"I'd rather just go ahead and schedule another flight right now instead of dealing with it later," I said.
"Don't worry about it," she said.
We sat on the runway another 15 minutes before leaving. No way I would make it now.
But over the past couple months, I've been reading and watching "The Secret."
If you watch Oprah or read Newsweek or do anything at all, you probably already know about "The Secret" -- but just in case you don't, it's based on the law of attraction. What you put out there in the universe is what you will receive in return.
So I sat on my plane and said, "Secret, I really want to make my flight home. Just help me make my connection." (Yes, I talk to The Secret like it's a person. Don't ask me why.)
A flight attendant got on the speaker and said our plane would be landing in Dallas at gate A15. And I have the type of luck where I ALWAYS land several terminals away from the gate where I need to be.
Like this: The less time I have between flights = the farther I have to run.
So I focused, and I visualized, and I said, "Secret, my Palm Springs flight needs to be at gate A16. Got that? A16."
The flight attendant got back on the speaker and began reading the list of departures and gates. Meanwhile, I chanted in my head, "A16. A16. A16."
"Palm Springs -- A16."
When she said that, I got goosebumps down to the bottoms of my feet. And I didn't even know you could get goosebumps there.
We had 30 minutes before landing; 40 minutes until my other flight took off. I don't know what kind of voodoo magic they were doing with time and space, but it was working in my favor.
I sweated and stared at the minute hand on the watch of the passenger next to me.
Our plane moved like a glacier into the gate. From my window seat, I could see the plane for Palm Springs just a few yards away.
I thought that would be the saddest thing in the world, to see that plane leave for Palm Springs while I could only sit and wave bye.
But then my plane came to a halt, and it felt like everything in the universe was conspiring to get me back to Palm Springs.
All the passengers made way for me to run down the aisle.
As I was scrambling out the door, the plane's phone rang.
I knew it was for me. I almost answered it, actually. But a flight attendant picked it up, looked me in the eye and just said, "Run."
I darted to the next gate over, where ropes had already been placed across the door.
"Jump the gate!" yelled the airline employee, who took my boarding pass. I leapt over the rope ... which got stuck on my flip-flop ... and I stumbled and fell and knocked over a big metal gate thing. I somersaulted back to my feet and kept moving down the longest gate in the world.
I made it in the door, just as they were about to shut it. And I suffered mean looks from all the other passengers. And I landed here without any luggage.
Sole Also Means Fish March 01, 11:32 a.m. I had to remove my shoes to walk through the security line at the airport. I placed them in a bin and slid them on the conveyor belt through the X-ray machine.
When they arrived on the other side, a stranger picked them up and fondled them.
"Nice shoes," he said.
Not really. They're cheap gold flip-flops from Old Navy. I picked them up for about $4. I've worn them so often, you can see the imprint of my toes on the sole.
But I wasn't really upset about this strange guy caressing my shoes. First off, who am I to judge? If it makes you happy, hold my shoes.
And mostly, I was laughing inwardly.
If only he knew where those shoes had been.
Specifically, they stepped on dead fish at the Salton Sea not too long ago.
Away in Fla. February 28, 12:37 p.m. I'm even more exhausted now than when I left for my vacation -- which is the greatest thing AND the worst thing about my best friend. She's a great big ball of energy, but she's also really tiring.
(I'm going to post the pics in the small version for faster loading -- just click on them if you want to see the big version in Flickr. In the near future, old posts will be archived so loading won't be an issue anymore.)
My first day there we had a perfect day at the beach:
Followed by some perfect seafood:
And a pirate party:
Q. How much did the pirate pay for corn?
And then we went to Key Largo:
With a friend who is the most adorable of all the fishermen in the ocean:
We pulled up some crab traps:
The claws that were big enough -- you have to measure them with a little gauge -- we pulled off for our dinner.
It doesn't feel good for the crab, I'm sure, but at least they get to live; they get tossed back into the ocean to grow some new pinchers.
Then we filled the traps with more bait -- these very dead fish:
We had a tiny feast. (Our friend only had five crab traps, the most allowed per person by law, and they weren't THAT full yet.)
Leavin' On a Jet Plane February 20, 10:44 p.m. Bye bye, Palm Springs.
I need a little vacation time, so I'm off to Miami for a little R&R with my best friend.
Though I don't know how much rest I'm going to get with this woman ...
Who once talked me into trying to eat 72-oz of steak in Amarillo, Texas (actually, it was my idea, but she went for it) ...
And sadly, we failed ...
I wonder what she'll make me eat this time.
P.S. If you're looking for my response to the friend who sent me a "break-up" e-mail on Valentine's Day, it'll be here. I promise. First I wanted to print some of the really wonderful responses I received from readers. You'll find that in this Sunday's Desert Sun. Check back here next Monday for my reply.
Anger Management February 19, 4:40 p.m. I sure have changed over the past decade or so.
I say that because I can't believe I still haven't responded to the friend who sent an e-mail to "dump" me on Valentine's Day.
You must understand, I am very quick to temper. I am full steam ahead, eyes narrowed, voice raised, guns blazing.
Or, at least, that is my first instinct.
In the past several months, I've actively been trying to be a better, happier, more positive person. I've done sessions with a life coach and taken workshops and I've surrounded myself with really supportive, wonderful people. I am really doing my best to be the finest Maggie I can be.
Still, I'm having a difficult time not firing back at that guy right now. Old habits die hard, I guess.
There's a certain validation to see that so many folks out there had the same first instinct that I did:
"He is a silly man, and you're better off without him in your life." -- Marjorie
"Dude has issues!" -- Sam
"What a jerk ... good riddance, I say." -- Lynn
"What a loser. Screw him." -- Teresa
"I can't believe you were even friends with such a [expletive]." -- Matt
"Your friend is an insecure man. And I'm being generous by calling him a man." -- Dave
So, yeah. That pretty much sums up how I feel.
But, obviously, I'm hurt and angry, so I'm doing the e-mail equivalent of biting my tongue. (Biting my fingers? Sitting on my hands?)
I don't trust myself to not say anything I'll regret right now, so I'm not going to respond at all just yet.
I've gotten some really awesome e-mails, by the way. Thanks so much for all the heartfelt and honest messages. I'll post some of my favorites on Tuesday.
Ring it on February 14, 8:26 p.m. So. I happened to get this ring, which is of the engagement variety, for Valentine's Day.
The boyfriend had planned this elaborate proposal, which was supposed to take place in a couple months. But then he picked up the ring today, and it has this 30-day exchange policy, and he didn't know if it would fit, and whatever whatever.
He told me about this dilemma, and I was like, "OK, yeah. I'll take the ring now."
I'm such a sucker for sparkly things.
As a bonus, the ring perfectly coordinated with the champagne I had for dinner.
As my friend Laura pointed out, "What good is an engagement ring if it doesn't match your hooch?"
V-Day! February 14, 1:39 p.m. Happy Valentine's Day!
The boyfriend and I are going to Paseo Palms Bar and Grill for dinner tonight.
We are sappy lovebirds, to be sure, but we are also frugal -- and Paseo Palms has an awesome 4-course menu for just $32 a person, including champagne.
Afterward, we're just going to have a quiet night at home. I don't even think we're exchanging cards.
This is MUCH different from our first Valentine's Day together, when I sent him on a crazy photo scavenger hunt around Cincinnati and baked him a heart-shaped pizza and gave him all sorts of presents, and he bought me a custom-made skydiving jumpsuit and filled my apartment with flowers and balloons and stuffed animals.
I think there's some mathematical equation here: That as love grows, it also becomes less expensive.
The Salton Sea February 12, 12:07 p.m. Jason and I made a day trip yesterday to the Salton Sea.
I'm more than a little ashamed to say I haven't really been keeping up on all the environmental and political news concerning the Salton Sea. I hadn't been there before, and I didn't really know much about the place ...
Hot for Teacher February 06, 2:11 p.m. Just a little background before I tell you this story: The boyfriend and I met when he was my skydiving instructor. (However, we waited to begin dating until I was a licensed solo skydiver, just to avoid any student-teacher weirdness.)
I was telling the boyfriend about my new karate class at Moore's Shou Shu Martial Arts in La Quinta.
The instructor is a young, cool guy and all the little kids absolutely adore him. Seriously. They looooove this man.
The instructor knocks the kids to the mat, and they beg for more. They act like it's a privilege to be taken down by him.
It's the most bizarre thing I've ever seen, I said to my boyfriend.
"Well, you should know all about instructor worship," he said, puffing up his chest and flexing his muscles.
That's when I gave him a firm karate chop to the neck.
An interview with Maggie Downs, professional celebrity elbow-rubber:
BLOG: So, did you do anything interesting last weekend, Maggie?
MAGGIE: But of course. It was yet another weekend of champagne, cigars and celebrities -- that's just how I roll.
BLOG: What did you do?
MAGGIE: I attended some of the parties for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic hosted by George Lopez.
BLOG: Who did you see?
MAGGIE: When I first got there, Carson Daly and Roger Clemens were just leaving. I heard they were kicked out of the club for wearing baseball caps. They returned to the party later, though. I also bumped into Samuel L. Jackson, literally. And I rode the elevator with Chris Tucker and Don Cheadle.
BLOG: Who was the nicest person you met?
MAGGIE: Anthony Anderson, by far. He was so sweet, warm and personable. Now I'm his fan for life. And I'm looking into becoming his new stalker.
BLOG: What was your favorite part of the night?
MAGGIE: The free cigars, rolled by a Cuban man who was flown in from Miami. I'm not usually a cigar smoker, but these were delicious.
BLOG: Worst part of the night?
MAGGIE: I watched some chick puke in the bathroom sink. And I'm not really that good around vomit -- especially when it belongs to someone else.
BLOG: Did you do anything embarrassing?
MAGGIE: Well, I didn't puke in a sink, if that's what you're asking.
BLOG: No, of course not. I'm just wondering if you did anything funny at all.
MAGGIE: Um, let's see. I mistook Don Cheadle for Tim Meadows from "Saturday Night Live." In my defense, Don Cheadle has grown his hair out and looks like Tim's twin. Also, I think I got a laugh out of George Lopez when I belted out every word to Bobby Brown's "Don't Be Cruel." Oh, and I blew cigar smoke at Taylor Hicks' head. But not on purpose; it was just windy.
BLOG: Cigar smoke? How rude!
MAGGIE: Actually, he didn't seem to mind it. But then again, Taylor Hicks was smoking cigarettes.
BLOG: What? Cigarettes? With that velvet voice?!
MAGGIE: I know. He's lucky I wasn't on Soul Patrol that night.
BLOG: If you had been on Soul Patrol, who else would have been slapped on the wrist?
MAGGIE: That would have to be all the women who were shamelessly throwing themselves at Ray Romano. Except they didn't really seem to have souls.
BLOG: Ray Romano? Really?!?
MAGGIE: Yes. Apparently, everybody really does love Raymond.
BLOG: So did you have a good time?
MAGGIE: Of course. The folks from the Classic really know how to host a good party. They fill up the place with VIPs, and everything is first-class fun from start to finish.
BLOG: Will you be partying at the tournament next year?
MAGGIE: I don't know. Will Anthony Anderson be there?
More ire! January 19, 3:11 p.m. I received a call this afternoon from CNBC's Joe Kernen.
I didn't know who he was either. But apparently, he's the host of "a fast-paced, irreverent look at the world of Wall Street."
"Hi. This is Joe Kernen from CNBC. I'm just looking at your fine paper here, where it's obvious you guys are doing a great job ..."
Yeah, that was sarcasm in there.
He said he wasn't mentioned in the paper for participating in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and was wondering if he should take it as a personal insult.
Um, no. I don't know why he wasn't mentioned in one of the articles. Maybe it was an editing error. Maybe it had something to do with the list we were working from.
He said: "Did you look at the Classic Web site? I'm on the Web site. Why didn't you work from the Web site?"
Well, not everything on this here Internet is completely factual, Joe. So we worked with what we were given from the PR people, because they are more trustworthy.
"Let me tell you, my wife and my in-laws were really proud that I wasn't mentioned," he said. "I really appreciate it."
And you know, I don't even know what article he's talking about it. Right now I'm looking at a special section that ran in The Desert Sun, called "Your Complete Guide to the Tournament," and he is clearly mentioned right underneath Carson Daly. There's even a photo of his head.
I also know that I wrote about him earlier in the week, because I wondered what in the heck was a "Squawk Box." And now I know.
So just to make you happy -- because it is of the utmost concern for me -- here's your mention, Joe! Hope your wife and your in-laws appreciate it.
Mistakes are made January 18, 2:14 p.m. Sometimes stories in the paper don't run as planned.
In the case of my Bristol Farms piece in Wednesday's food section, the address for the store was accidentally omitted from the page.
So, to the 27 people who called and left me long and curse-laden voicemails about what an idiot I am and how they would really love to go shopping but now they can't because they don't have an address to find the place ... I'm so sorry your Google is broken.
It has to be broken, right? Otherwise I'm sure you would have taken 0.2 seconds to find the information on your own.
I would get that fixed right away if I were you.
P.S. Just to avoid any other calls, it's 73101 Country Club Drive.
Dream a Little Dreamgirl January 16, 3:23 p.m. On Saturday night I interviewed "Dreamgirl" -- and now Golden Globe winner -- Jennifer Hudson before her performance at the Houston gala.
That means I have all the dirt on this diva. Except ... well, there isn't any.
See, I had been worried that I would hate her. At last year's film festival I met one or two stars who just ruined everything for me -- I can no longer watch their movies or listen to their music without remembering how I simply didn't like them as people.
I didn't want that to happen with Jennifer Hudson. I rooted for her on "Idol." Her voice makes me mushy. I'm a fan.
I shouldn't have worried.
She was absolutely charming and sweet and gracious. She thoughtfully answered all my questions, and she still had that "You mean you want to interview [i]me[/i]?" vibe of a new celebrity. And also, she was totally stunning.
If anything, I like her better now than I did before.
Pinch me! January 09, 07:29 a.m. We had an unexpected visitor at poker last night:
My first scorprion!
I found Pincher McGee in the bathroom and was surprisingly calm. I simply yelled to my boyfriend, "Hey honey, we have a scorpion in the bathroom."
The boyfriend said, "Cool!" and ran into the room to come see. He poked the scorpion with a pen a couple times, causing the little guy to run under a pile of clothes. (Note to self: Stop leaving clothes on floor.)
Even though I really value and respect all animals, I was surprised to hear myself ordering my boyfriend to execute the invertibrate. I stood on top of the bad and chanted, "Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!"
The boyfriend refused to kill him, and instead scooped him into a Glad container.
After a brief photo session, we set him free outside -- far, far away from the house.
I'm back! January 08, 6:12 p.m. I've been a little MIA lately. I disappeared around the holidays, took some vacation time, and then my dad came to visit.
The guy is getting up there in years and I thought he would be a little jetlagged, so I figured we would take things easy ... and I was so wrong.
I should have remembered that this is an Air Force guy. He's showered, dressed and ready to go every day at 5 a.m. on the dot. He has more drive than a steam engine.
We did a lot of stuff in three days: Walked through downtown Palm Springs, went to Idyllwild, drove to Edwards Air Force Base (one of his buddies was becoming a general), saw my office, drove around all the bigtime golf courses, ate at Arnold Palmer's, walked around The River, toured El Paseo, and went to the Palm Springs Air Museum.
Here we are at the air museum -- you can see my pops in the background, chatting up one of the volunteers.
Meanwhile, I amused myself by taking photos. Here I am as Cyclops:
And I really love this image:
This was my dad's first excursion out to the desert, and he had a fantastic time. I honestly never thought he would make it out this way, and I'm so glad he did.
He said when he comes back, we can do the tram, the Living Desert, Pioneertown and Joshua Tree. Probably all in the same day, if he has his way.
This is not a post December 29, 12:57 p.m. The boyfriend and I visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art yesterday -- it was a rare day off for both of us, and I really wanted to see the Magritte exhibit.
I'm not usually into surrealism, and yet I really, really love Magritte. I love his juxtaposition of images, I love his humor, and at the most basic level, I simply love paintings of clouds and sky and bowler hats.
My favorite Magritte works are the ones that explore the relationship between words and images, all the "Ceci n'est pas" paintings.
Probably the best and most famous of these is "The Treachery of Images," which depicts a realistic-looking pipe above the words "Ceci N'est pas une pipe." ("This is not a pipe.") Because, of course, it's not a pipe, only a picture of a pipe.
There's nothing like good art to make me feel happy and inspired. I came home last night and wrote in my journal for hours and can't wait to get my hands on some paint.
I would recommend going to LACMA, even if you're not into contemporary art. The museum has a little something to please everyone, from ancient Egyptian to Impressionist art -- right now they even have a display that deconstructs modern fashion.
Can't make it to LA? Then make sure to stop by the Palm Springs Art Museum, which currently has an incredible Roy Lichtenstein pop art exhibit.
Just 364 more days of shopping ... December 26, 11:19 a.m. I used to have my Amazon.com wishlist registered under a fake name, because I didn't want people to know too much about me -- which is some really stupid and flawed logic.
So yesterday I changed my account and am officially using my real name.
Now I just have to sit back and wait for all the presents to roll in.
Of swine and women December 21, 5:24 p.m. Lately I've been thinking a lot about Christmases past, and I remembered this story about a guy I once dated.
We met at a bar on Thanksgiving Eve, the biggest drinking night of the year. The place had turned into something of a college reunion for my friend, Renee, and somehow I got shuffled into this group of hugging, kissing, embracing people.
That's how I found myself tossed into the arms of a man. We'll call him Sparky.
Sparky was attractive and witty and oh-so-fun. Problem was that we lived three hours apart.
Over the next few weeks, we kept in touch through incessant e-mails and hot, late-night phone calls.
He grew more and more insistent on seeing me again. But our schedules conflicted like crazy -- I worked weekends, and he worked on my days off. The only day we could possibly spend together was Christmas. And even then, I was working most of the day.
We decided to meet at my place. I left a key for him under the doormat and told him to make himself at home.
"Do you want me to bring anything?" he asked.
"Absolutely," I said. "A bottle of good gin and a ham."
"Yes. A Christmas ham, please."
"Seriously? You want a ham?"
Was I not making myself clear? He asked what I wanted, and I told him. One Christmas ham.
That night I arrived home to a house glowing with candles and a strange man on the futon.
It turns out that people look different in the light of a dank bar.
So the first problem was that Sparky wasn't exactly the man I remembered. The man I remembered was tall and handsome. The man I remembered didn't wear a tank top and have plumage popping up from his shoulders like afro puffs.
Still, this was Sparky, the man I had bared my soul to over the phone and computer. We had developed a deep and meaningful relationship that transcended shoulder hair. I could deal with this.
Until I discovered the second problem -- he hadn't kept up his end of the bargain.
"Did you bring the ham?"
"What? No. I thought you were kidding."
"Why would somebody kid about a ham?"
That night, Sparky slept on the futon alone.
Months later I ended up dating his roommate, which was a much more satisfying and wonderful affair.
Moral of the story: When your girl asks you for a ham, bring her a ham.
The perfect holiday gift December 20, 1:48 p.m. In my column last week, I wrote about the Artist's Way workshop I've been taking with life coaches Trent Blanchard and Leslie Genhart.
Even if you can't commit to the full 12-week session, you can still work with Trent and Leslie for life coaching in other ways.
Leslie Gebhart works with clients individually to remove the obstacles in your life and help you work toward the goals you really want. She can be reached at 320.2688 or by emailing email@example.com.
And Trent is starting a new series of workshops, called "Tuesdays With trent," designed to get you out of the house, meeting new people and working toward making your dreams come true.
His first session, "Working with Core Beliefs," is a five-week workshop utilizing the book "The Four Agreements." This workshop runs from 7 to 8:30 Jan. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 and costs $150.00.
Not-so-secret Santa December 11, 12:48 p.m. The boyfriend and I were headed to the grocery store yesterday morning when we noticed a lot of police cars, lights flashing, blocking the side streets along East Palm Canyon.
Maybe a bank was being robbed somewhere, we thought. Perhaps a convict was on the loose.
Then a long line of trucks, police cars and about 200 motorcycles snaked past us. All their headlights were blinking. Horns were honking. People were shouting.
This had to be something for somebody special.
"Oh no," I said. "Gerald Ford died."
My eyes immediately welled with tears.
But that didn't seem right either. We had just been watching football on TV, and surely the networks would have interrupted with that news. I would hope so, at least.
That's when we noticed that all the policemen standing by their cars had something perched atop their helmets. Like sticks almost, poking up from either side, just above their ears.
"Antlers," said the boyfriend. "The cops have antlers."
Just then, a big man in red drove past us, his arms frantically waving through their air as though he was swatting flies.
It was a motorcade for Santa Claus.
I still don't get it. I don't know where they were going. I don't know why. I don't even care.
I'm just very, very happy the boyfriend and I chose that morning to pick up some bread and fruit.
The Wurst of Times December 06, 08:54 a.m. It's St. Nicholas Day!
Anybody else celebrate it?
This is a wonderful tradition that I grew up with, thanks to my German mother, and it's one of my favorite things about the holiday season. In fact, I almost prefer it over Christmas.
Christmas has a countdown. Christmas has hustle and bustle. Everybody talks about Christmas.
But St. Nicholas Day is like a secret club.
The day kind of sneaks up on you -- who does a countdown for Dec. 6? -- and before you know it, you're waking up with a bunch of goodies in your shoe.
Growing up, I would always try to swap my shoe for a boot, in an effort to bring in a larger haul. That never worked.
Another thing that didn't work? When St. Nicholas would leave my goodies in range of the dog. For a few years there, I would wake up to find the family dalmation wiping Nürnberger Lebkuchen crumbs off her nose.
Dog never touched the Stollen fruitcake, though. (And the truth is, neither did I.)
I love that even in the desert and even though I'm far from my immediate family, I can still relish the specialness of seasonal things.
I think in honor of that, I might do some old-fashioned German cooking tonight. And then I'll sit on my fahrvergnügen and watch some David Hasselhoff movies or something.
Cat update December 05, 12:18 p.m. Quick update on Kung Pao Kitten:
The boyfriend and I had to make another scary visit to the vet on the weekend after Thanksgiving, when the cat began convulsing and vomiting in my arms. I thought he was going to die right then and there.
The vet said the cat probably had an upset tummy from the combination of antibiotics and an empty stomach. So he gave Kung Pao a shot to increase his appetite and make him thirsty.
Not sure what was in that shot, but it worked like magic. Ever since then Kung Pao has been drinking a lot of water and eating really well. Over the past week he's become cuddely and playful again and seems very much back to normal.
Tamale Festival! December 04, 4:29 p.m. Wish I could have hung around the Tamale Festival longer on Saturday. However, I was one of the tamale judges, and after tasting 30-some tamales, I had to roll myself home.
I still managed to photograph a couple things during the day, though.
Overheard December 01, 1:46 p.m. I just attended the birthday celebration of a 102-year-old woman at the Mizell Senior Center. They offered champagne and non-alcoholic sparkling cranberry juice for the guests to drink.
One little old man ended up with a cup of the cranberry juice and said:
No More Talky December 01, 10:42 a.m. I have this problem where I find it impossible to make small talk with people. I can't just put together some nice, normal sentences. Oh no. Completely ridiculous things burst out of my mouth like some defective rocketship.
I see my very nice neighbor at Starbucks. Neighbor wants to chat while we wait for our lattes.
NEIGHBOR: Hey, you look great. You're all dressed up. MAGGIE: I have a meeting today. NEIGHBOR: O-kay ...
A very sweet lady at the Girlfriend Factor cocktail party pulls me aside to say that she enjoys my writing.
LADY: I hope you're writing a book! MAGGIE: No. No, I'm not. I did write a book once. Except it's awful poetry, all about blood and sadness and death. But that was a long time ago. I was 16. I'm not so much about the blood anymore. LADY: (blank stare)
Yesterday I went to a new dentist and was having my first exam. The dentist complimented my thick wool sweater, which I bought years ago from a vendor at a Dead show.
DENTIST: Great sweater you have there. MAGGIE: I bought it from some hippies on the street. DENTIST: Uh ...
This is why I work behind a computer -- and should stay there.
Last time they came to the valley, it was July. And even though they didn't say anything, I could tell they were all thinking, "Why in the hell does she live [i]here[/i]?"
Now they get it.
I love showing off the area to people who appreciate it -- I really think this time my family did. We strolled Palm Canyon Drive at night, which is magical when it's flowing and pumping with tourists and enthusiastic locals.
The lights were twinkling, the restaurants had lines out onto the street, the stores were open for browsing -- it was a complete transformation from what it was in summer. They loved it.
We spent the next day at Joshua Tree, hiking, climbing peaks, examining bobcat tracks.
The day ended up in Pioneertown, watching the sun set over the old Western village.
Leftovers November 24, 11:26 a.m. If you're at home enjoying some leftovers right about now, check out www.beerandturkey.com. The site will help you pick the perfect pairing for your drumstick.
Here are a few of their suggestions for a little guzzle guzzle with your gobble gobble:
Traditional Roast Turkey: The roasted and caramelized skin matches well with amber ale, a strong golden ale or an amber lager in the Vienna style.
Smoked Turkey: If your local brewery offers a smoked beer, that can serve as a compliment to smoked turkey as well. Look for a porter, Scotch ale or amber ale in the smoked style.
Cajun Turkey: Celebrated beer writer and New Mexico resident Stan Hieronymus suggests a malty IPA to go with his favorite Cajun turkey recipe. For a malty alternative that will stand up to the heat, try a dark bock or strong Scotch ale.
Ham: Like the fruit and cloves often used to prepare ham, the fruity, clove notes in weizen or the stronger weizenbock compliment ham at the dinner table.
Happy Thanksgiving! November 23, 8:03 p.m. I was going to do a warm and fuzzy post about all the things I'm thankful for and the many ways I'm blessed ...
But then I saw an old episode of Bobby Flay's "Throwdown" on Food TV, and I feel I have to talk about that instead.
The chef went head to head with a Marine cook from Twentynine Palms. It was apparently the middle of summer, as the temperature was about 110 degrees. (And they even focused in on the front page of The Desert Sun to prove it!)
Poor Bobby had gotten out of the kitchen, but he didn't stand a chance in that heat.
The Marine, Capt. Eric P. Dominijanni, was a master at the grill and triumphed over Flay. His original recipe for steak was tangy and -- of course -- hot. There was no contest.
So today, I'm thankful for a lot of things -- including the fact that one of our own showed an Iron Chef how it's done in the desert.
Dance Dance November 14, 11:20 a.m. The lights glow soft, mottled, unnaturally pale. Two dancers crouch on the wooden floor.
The tiny wisp of a woman stands. She sweeps across the stage with airy movements. She floats like a maple leaf.
When she curls up again on the ground, the man surrounds her with his own dance.
This brings tears to my eyes. Actual, literal tears. I wrap my arms around my body and pull my sweater tight. The boyfriend puts his arm around my shoulder and holds me close inside the darkened room.
The dance we were watching was "Asura," probably my favorite performance during the ninth annual Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival at the McCallum Theatre.
The event showcased some of the best dance and choreography I've ever seen. In fact, this is a perfect example of why I should not be a dance critic: I thought they were all equally wonderful.
Because I had a contact lens issue, I couldn't stick around long enough to find out which choreographer took home the top prize. But I really felt like the big winner in the room -- that ticket was some of the best money I've ever spent.
Kitchen Aid November 10, 11:38 a.m. Why did I always think auctions were stale and boring? I was so wrong.
I attended the Second Annual Pendleton Foundation Chef's Auction, held last night at Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, and it was more of a party than some stuffy old auction.
Each chef auctioned off his or her services -- winners will receive a personalized dinner for eight either at their house or at a private table in the restaurant.
The chefs were truly treated like rockstars last night. Check out these guys:
Here's Chef Steve Quinones from the Chop House, who brought in $5,500 -- probably because of his mad dance skills.
Some of the highest bids went to Herve Glin of Corktree ($10,000), Pascal Lallemand of Wally's Desert Turtle ($9,000) and Andrew Copley of Copley's ($12,500).
And then there was Leanne Kamekona, who brought in a stunning amount of money -- $18,000.
All the chefs gathered on stage to support her during the bidding, which was really cool.
And it was all for a good cause too. The foundation raises money for local residents suffering from rare forms of cancer. It was started last year to benefit Karen Pendleton, who needed an expensive surgery that wasn't covered by insurance.
As my friend Maria said: Until we get universal health care in this country, the chefs will have to take matters into their own hands.
Thanks to these culinary superstars, the Pendleton Foundation raised $120,650 in just a couple hours. What an awesome night.
Doin' the 'Ween Scene October 31, 1:56 p.m. HOORAY FOR HALLOWEEN, my favorite holiday of the year.
This morning I hiked Bump and Grind -- so I can calorically afford to eat some Halloween goodies -- and I listened to the "This American Life" radio show on my iPod.
The episode was titled, "And the call was coming from the basement ..." -- a collection of true, spooktacular Halloween tales.
I don't know why I do such things to myself, as I am comprised of 100 percent wuss.
Here I was, walking up an almost completely barren trail. It was still fairly dark outside. And I'm listening to stories about ghosts, rabid wildlife, kidnappings ... pretty much every single thing I DON'T want to hear about when I am by myself and have no cell phone signal.
Eventually I heard some panting behind me. I shrugged it off, thinking I was imagining things.
The panting grew deeping and louder, overtaking the sound on my headphones. It came closer and closer ... until ...
Some idiot jogger ran right into me. Knocked me over. Almost threw me off the mountain.
And that's the spookiest thing that's happened to me all day.
But there's still tonight. (*cue horror movie music*)
In just a couple hours, the boyfriend and I are going to listen to "Bela Lugosi's Dead" while getting all costumed out for a Halloween party.
I'm not going to tell you what my outfit is yet, but tune in tomorrow for the scariest of photos ... it should be a scream.
WOOT! October 30, 2:27 p.m. I'm told that after the final votes were counted, I took second place in Saturday night's Dancing With Our Stars competition.
I really feel like I took first, though.
I had an incredible amount of love and support, both from the boisterous crowd at the event and from folks who were cheering me on from afar. Plus, I raised a decent amount of money for The Girlfriend Factor, a non-profit that really does some incredible work for women.
Oh, and did I mention that I danced a damn fine tango? Because I did. Probably the best dance I've ever done in my whole life.
I also had a damn fine partner.
Here's Phil, smoking his chocolate dessert:
And here's me with my fancy chocolate coin monocle:
As you can see, we really let loose after we finished dancing in the competition. I think we were so nervous and had worked so hard ... we both sorta snapped and went a little crazy.
Thank God we were one of the first couples to take to the stage. We couldn't have held out much longer.
It was really a fantastic night, one of the best in my whole life. Expect a detailed recap in my column next Sunday.
Also, I know I promised video last week. And there is some video floating around the newsroom somewhere. It's just that our online staff has been so busy with updates about the wildfire, there really hasn't been time to upload it.
But soon. (Hopefully.) There will be video.
At the very least, I want you all to see what you missed at the competition ... Phil and me, in all of our sassiness.
Also, a huge thank you goes out to everyone who voted for me. I really, truly appreciate it.
Everybody dance now! October 11, 1:48 p.m. I had two friends over for dinner last night, Nick and Zach.
For a while, we were listening to some French pop music while the TV was on mute. Sometimes it lined up just right so the people on Jeopardy looked as though they were speaking in French ... and trust me, this is so much funnier in practice. Try it sometime.
Then "Dancing With the Stars" came on. And my two very heterosexual male friends urged me to turn off the music so we could watch some dance, damn it.
That was right as Joey Lawrence was doing the samba to George Michael's "Freedom."
Yes, I'm positive my friends are straight.
It's difficult to not get seduced by "Dancing With the Stars," though. As far as reality shows go, it has it all: Fun, action, drama, spectacle and some washed-up celebs. It's pretty much perfect.
I also have so much more respect for the dancers now, after having a few dance lessons. That stuff is HARD, and I can't imagine working on a new dance style every week. I'm having a difficult enough time just doing three minutes of tango. And I don't have to do it in front of millions of people.
Anyway, by the end of the show, I think I discovered exactly why my guy friends enjoy this dance show so much. The girls have these gorgeous bodies and are oh-so-very flexible.
There isn't a man alive who is immune to a buxom blonde in skimpy clothing who can wrap her heel around her neck. Twice. Hell, even I can appreciate that. You go, Willa.
By the way, I'm rooting for Jerry. I've met him a few times in person, and he really is a vibrant, intelligent and charismatic person. I love watching his dance performances -- his energy fills the room.
And if you think you've seen him shake his maracas, just wait. Someday I'll tell you the story about his naked workouts ...
Dancin' Machine October 09, 09:34 a.m. Hope you all read my story on Saturday about Dancing With Our Stars, a charity event modeled after the hit TV show, "Dancing With the Stars."
I'm going to be dancing the tango to raise money for The Girlfriend Factor. Votes are $10 each, with proceeds going to the charity. (To vote for me, visit www.thegirlfriendfactor.org or www.dancingwithourstars.net)
Things are really picking up quickly, now that the competition is just a few weeks away.
My dance partner, Phil, and I had another tango lesson yesterday.
We've actually come a long way in just a week. We have the first third of our dance choreographed, and we're getting comfortable dancing with each other. I've even stopped trying to lead him!
Video will be posted soon -- once I remember how to get it on here.
Next step: I need to find dance shoes that will fit my enormous feet and shop for a sexy dress to accomodate my generous booty.
Heide October 05, 09:02 a.m. My column for today is about putting my mom in a nursing home, which has dredged up all sorts of emotional things for me.
It's weird and depressing and heartbreaking. I never thought her life as an older person would be this way. I thought she would age gracefully and beautifully. I don't remember her ever catching so much as a cold or flu; getting sick never even entered the equation.
I spent last weekend going through old photos of her. I had forgotten what a dynamic, stunning woman she was before the Alzheimer's.
Here's my favorite photo of her, taken somewhere in Germany.
Let's Do Lunch October 04, 1:50 p.m. I am officially a lady who lunches.
But it's only because I'm slightly obsessed with my new bento-style lunchbox.
Yeah, yeah. It's made of lead-free, dishwasher-safe plastic. It helps the environment by dramatically reducing waste. And it forces you to eat just the right portion sizes.
To be honest, it's adorable, and that's what I really love about it. I'm shallow like that.
HOW CUTE IS THAT? For reals.
I won't even go into detail about all the hoops I jumped through to buy this. It's been a two-month process of driving all over Southern California and e-mailing people online ... but it was all completely worth it in the end.
FRIDAY: Woo! September 29, 12:11 p.m. It's been a long and tough week.
The boyfriend and I are in a bit of a financial mess. I think my mom might be moving into a home soon, because her illness is getting worse. And then there are all these extraneous things mucking things up and just making life more difficult than it should be.
But it's FRIDAY! And that makes everything better.
This weekend I'm going to go outside, get some sun, play, learn to tango, play with the cat, hike, write, socialize, laugh.
It took a little effort for them to get that car moving -- they had run over a curb and into a wall, and part of the vehicle was crumbled around a big pole on the side of the road. But they did. And then they just drove off.
The boyfriend and I just stood there, in the middle of the road, for a good second or two.
The night was warm and quiet. We were completely alone; none of the other neighbors had even looked out the window. And the accident had just up and left.
"Uh ... I guess we don't need a cruiser to respond after all," my boyfriend told the police.
Cool Running September 27, 12:37 p.m. I am not a runner. Let me just make that clear.
But every so often, I forget just how much my body resents everything about being put into motion in such a manner. And so I lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement.
That’s what I did last night.
The boyfriend wasn’t home, so I needed to bring my house keys with me. I also needed my cell phone, just to be safe, and my inhaler, just in case. Oh, and a bottle of water, too. And also my iPod …
Pretty soon I had a backpack full of stuff.
The plan was to walk quickly during the verses of all the songs, then run during each chorus. Soon, my shins felt all splinty. My knees ached. My lungs were crying. But all of that is normal.
What wasn’t normal was that every time I took off for a run, my shorts felt all wadded and uncomfortable and my underwear got all twisty. My gait was already slow and pathetic, but each second it was made worse by all the weirdness happening behind me.
I wondered what the hell was going on back there, so I reached my hand back … and discovered that the backside of me was completely wet.
The water bottle had leaked. It soaked through everything in the backpack. And then it soaked me.
I was like a deer that had just been shot -- barely limping along, coughing, wheezing, about to pass out in oncoming traffic, spilling liters of fluid everywhere.
The worst part was that each time a car passed, the driver would slow down to a 5-mph crawl, peering out the window at this strange girl tottering down a dark street, a river of water running down her legs.
Wolves, Lower September 25, 3:54 p.m. I keep forgetting to post these photos of an incredible day the boyfriend and I spent a couple weeks ago at Wolf Mountain Sanctuary in Lucerne Valley.
The non-profit, which was opened by Tonya Littlewolf in 1985, provides shelter for just less than 20 rescued wolves. And the animals are stunningly, achingly beautiful.
And big, too.
We were allowed inside the dens with the wolves and fed them frozen chicken drumsticks by hand.
When I walked into the den with the older wolves, one of them immediately ran up to me, put his paws on my shoulders and buried his nose against my head, pressing his chest against mine. After he ran off, another wolf ran up and licked my face. This apparently means I'm part of the pack.
Interestingly, my parents always wondered if I was raised by wolves. And now, having been accepted as part of the pack, I guess I can say I was.
To learn more about Wolf Mountain Sanctuary, call (760) 248-7818 or visit www.wolfmountain.com.
Or to donate -- those puppies are hungry like the wolf, you know -- go to www.wolfmountain.com/donate.htm
He Hates Mondays and Loves Lasagna September 25, 1:48 p.m. The boyfriend and I were doing some grocery shopping at Stater Brothers on Saturday morning.
As we were checking out, the guy in front of us was buying a copy of The Desert Sun.
Cashier: Do you have an ID for this?
Man: Excuse me?
Cashier: Well, I have to make sure you're at least 18 year old before you can read all this bad news.
Man: (awkwardly) Oh, ha ha. Yeah, I'm older than 18.
Cashier: Are you sure you don't want to buy a box of tissues to go with that?
Man: Excuse me, what?
Cashier: Tissues. You know, to go along with all the bad news.
Man: (Even more awkwardly) Ha ha. No, I don't think I'll be needing that.
Cashier: Seriously, they don't print anything but bad news these days.
At this point, I'm about to jump in the conversation. But the boyfriend is giving me a look that is part pleading, part cautionary -- like, "Please don't say anything right now. Don't you dare say anything ..."
But I didn't have to.
Because as the cashier continued on and said, "Yup. Nothing but bad news these days --" the guy cut her short.
He said, "Listen. I'm buying the paper because the LA Times stopped carrying Garfield."
I Left My Heart There September 20, 12:35 p.m. San Francisco is the best possible weekend getaway. The weather was sunny and cool. The shopping was varied and plentiful. The food was succulent and delicious. And the people, of course, were vibrant and artsy and eclectic.
What a wonderful town.
I basically ate and drank my way around the city, which is my preferred way to travel.
From dim sum in Chinatown ...
To seafood on the wharf ...
And linguini overlooking the bay ...
And finally cappuccino in Union Square ...
It's a good thing that city has so many hills to walk up.
This happens to me every time I travel by air -- I suddenly realize the book I'm reading and about to take through the airport has a woefully inappropriate title.
Last time it was "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth.
This time it's Sarah Vowell's "Assassination Vacation."
Even though it's a perfectly good and acceptable book, I can't take that through airport security. You think those hopped-up, overzealous guards will let me on board with something that sounds like a cheery how-to on murder? They won't even let me take LIPGLOSS.
And I know. I was once stopped for wearing a skydiving shirt that proclaimed "Jumps from perfectly good airplanes."
(Though I understood the cause for concern in that case, as I had a parachute in my carry-on.)
Anyway, in about an hour it's off to San Francisco for me!
If I'm not back by Monday, call Homeland Security.
Hickman interview September 13, 3:55 p.m. My column in Thursday's paper is an interview with Johnny Hickman, guitarist and co-founder of the band Cracker.
The problem with Johnny is that he's too interesting and articulate -- I had far too much good material and far too little space in the paper.
So here's the rest of the story ... the part of the interview you won't see in print.
MAGGIE: How did it feel playing in Pioneertown this year, so soon after the wildfires came through the area?
JOHNNY: The place where we recorded "Kerosene Hat" is right next to the bowling alley. It's just a little old barn, and I was so pleased to see that it's still standing. I'm almost more happy about that than anything else.
MAGGIE: Pioneertown is a really special place. It seems perfect for Cracker.
JOHNNY: It's hip without intending to be. It doesn’t try too hard because it doesn’t have to.
MAGGIE: I saw that there were donations being accepted for those who lost things in the fires.
JOHNNY: There's this couple, they lost just about everything but each other. So one of our friends from South Carolina took up collection for this family. They were passing the hat during the shows. It was just this beautiful feeling of philanthropy among our fans. None of these bands are household names and we don't play big stadiums or anything, but we have the tightest community of fans.
MAGGIE: No kidding. Your fans are really hardcore. I met people who had come from all over the country.
JOHNNY: They show up on tour that way. They'll take a week off work and go to seven or eight shows. It’s really touching. That’s giving a lot to us, and it never goes unappreciated by this bunch. That's what some people do for music. I’d drive halfway across the country to see Bob Dylan on a good night. Heck, I'd do it on a bad night.
MAGGIE: It seems like you have a great rapport with your fans too.
JOHNNY: David [Lowery, lead singer of Cracker], he’s a little bit more of a private human being and a little more shy, and I’m the opposite. I walk right into the crowd. That's why David calls me the ambassador. I met my wife that way. She was a big Cracker fan and she was at a lot of shows. And because of the band, I have friends in every major city in the country now.
MAGGIE: Do you guys camp out during the event?
JOHNNY: I have camped out in Pioneertown. But for this, I usually stay right over at the motel with all the fans. Next year I'll probably camp out.
MAGGIE: Tell me about what happens in the wee hours during the campout.
JOHNNY: Ah, Porchstock. It started last year when some of the fans who call themselves the Hickmen started playing some songs on the porch, just like you would at a family gathering. All of a sudden there were ten people listening. Then someone brought out a set of bongos, and somebody pulled out a mandolin. People were clanking on bottles with little sticks. It turned into a big jamboree.
MAGGIE: So how late did everyone jam?
JOHNNY: The first night this year kind of fizzled, because too many people wanted to sleep. But the second night Ike Reilly was out there and Kenny [Margolis], Frank [Funaro] and a bunch of other people. And because we're too loud, we ended up at Bugs Salcido's house. We butchered a few Bob Dylan songs, had some fun and played until, oh, only 4 in the morning.
MAGGIE: So it's now 14 years after the release of your song "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now). What does the world need NOW?
JOHNNY: More tolerance, because there seems to be a severe lack of that these days. Um ... let's see. What the world needs now is to stop fearing what they don’t understand and don’t know. And the world needs a better sense of humor.
My bad September 13, 2:14 p.m. So here's video of John Doe, who was joined on stage by Camper Van Beethoven. They did a Woody Guthrie tune, but this isn't it. Turns out I only took video of their cover of Harry Nillson's "Everybody's Talkin' At Me."
It was very lovely and beautiful on a cool desert night ... but you won't be able to tell too much from this clip.
I was standiong right by a speaker, which made the sound a little off.
Great show! September 09, 11:31 a.m. "I want everybody to make sure they're getting enough liquids tonight, because you can really get dehydrated out here in the desert. So drink up! I know I am."
That quote is why John Doe rules.
His set last night at Pappy & Harriet's was fantastic -- I only wish it had lasted longer.
He was joined by members of Camper Van Beethoven for about six songs, the last of which was a rollicking version of the Motown classic "Money (That's What I Want)." Love love love.
When I talked with Doe later, he said that members of CVB practiced the songs on their own. They only ran through them a couple times together.
That's how you can tell all these guys are such great musicians -- everything sounded really solid and polished, not like something that was just put together a few hours beforehand.
Later on Doe joined CVB on stage during their set. (David Lowery introduced him by saying, "We were pretending to play punk rock back when this guy was actually playing it.") Together they did a folked-up version of X's "White Girl."
I love it when I see things like that at live shows. It's something you'll never hear on an album or see anywhere else. You've been privy to something very special.
Unless you're really lucky.
"I was thinking ... uh, how do I get this to become a tour?" Doe said, scratching his chin. "How could we take this on the road?"
What the World Needs Now September 08, 4:02 p.m. I soak up music the way some people consume food or water or sun. I have a desire for it, a hunger, a raw, gluttonous drive to absorb it all.
That's why I'm so psyched about the Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker campout this weekend at Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace. What an awesome, homegrown event, and what and incredible way to promote independent music. We're so lucky to have it here.
I'm heading up in just a couple hours with the boyfriend, hopefully in time to catch The Thriftstore All Stars.
John Doe will also be great, I'm sure.
And then Camper Van Beethoven! I've been humming "Take the Skinheads Bowling" all day long. Can't wait.
Hopefully I'll have some photos to share throughout the weekend.
Conversation #3 August 22, 3:41 p.m. He asked me if I've ever noticed how life is different in the desert. How everything has a certain shield around it, some type of armor protecting it.
He said he once walked through a field of prickly plants and thorned flowers. A tiny rabbit hopped close to his feet. As he bent down to pet it, the animal suddenly transformed -- hissed and grew fangs and threatened to bite his fingers off.
"I hate the desert," he said. "Everything beautiful has the potential to hurt you."
Summer is really taking a toll on the DHS organic farmers' market, which is looking a little thin lately.
There are only a couple vendors right now, and the produce looks a little weak and wilted.
But I still go there and support the place, because it's better than most of the stuff you'll find at the normal grocery.
Yesterday, as I gathered bags of shiny Japanese eggplants, deeply colored beets and plump heirloom tomatoes, I noticed a new vendor.
One with dark, rich goods. One proclaiming "cacao."
Now, I love chocolate. But I only love really good chocolate. Nothing waxy or from a gas station, for example. Nothing disgustingly sweet.
And back when I was a raw foodist, I got hooked on raw cacao nibs, little pieces of the bean that are used to make cocoa and chocolate.
I still buy bags of the nibs at Harvest Health Foods in Palm Desert. I use them in smoothies or eat them plain as a snack whenever I'm really craving chocolate. They're bitter and have a very distinct bite, but they're what I crave instead of commercially processed chocolate products.
But this place at the DHS market -- they had the most beautiful truffles and bars and the most beautiful candies, all made with the raw cacao. They have dark, velvety truffles made with spiced orange peel, goji berries, maca, oolong tearaspberries and cassis and more!
It's a foodie's dream.
I bought three of the tiny vegan bars, and I'm currently rationing them. (Shhh. They're locked away in one of my desk drawers at the office.)
In my column today, I wrote all sorts of sweetness about my best friend, Jamie.
After reading it, she responded with some sappiness of her own. She sent out a message to our friends that detailed everything she loves about me.
This is my favorite thing on the list:
I think she is the only person in the world who matches me dare-for-dare. This may come as a surprise to all of you, but sometimes, I get some crazy ideas in my head. Usually, I will express an urge to act out loud on those ideas, and nearly every single time, whoever I'm with will stare at me with a crinkled eyebrow and go, "Seriously?" and then usually, I back down like I didn't mean it. Maggie is the only person who responds with, "Let's do it!"
Soda Pop Culture August 10, 11:30 a.m. My column today is about the very wonderful and very adorable Idyllwild Soda Pop & Sweet Shop, which my boyfriend and I discovered after a day of fishing at Lake Fulmer in the San Jacinto Mountains.
This is the lake.
One of boyfriend's friends suggested we make a stop in Idyllwild on our way back down the mountain, because we had taken the non-Idyllwild way up there.
Idyllwild reminded me a lot of Cicely, Alaska, of "Northen Exposure" fame, minus the Jewish, New Yorker physician.
It's a surreal place, in that you might find a totem pole where you least expect it. Like, for example, the center of town.
After a long day of fishing and being outdoors, imagine our pleasure when boyfriend and I discovered the motherlode of pure cane sugar and happiness.
We walked around outside and each enjoyed bottles of frosty cold root beer, the powerful kind that stings the back of your throat.
Best. Text. Ever. August 08, 12:00 p.m. My friend, Sam, found himself in quite a pickle.
He met this woman online.
They went out for drinks in real life, and the two immediately hit it off, like pancakes and butter.
A couple days later Sam was thinking about this woman and soon found himself tapping away at his computer. He discovered a lot more than expected about this woman -- including old photos of her and a thank you note to her plastic surgeon.
Now Sam happens to be one of those guys who doesn't approve of plastic surgery, so this made him very upset.
Then he scrutinized the old photos of his new lady. Before long, Sam had himself convinced that this woman's mammaries were not the ones she was born with.
I told Sam to give her another chance, that perhaps he had gotten worked up over nothing. And why let that be a deal breaker anyway?
So they went on another date.
And at 6 a.m., I received the funniest text message I've ever gotten.
Your liver doesn't care August 03, 5:24 p.m. Blargh.
I got this press release today. And I hate to be mean, because I know somebody's brain actually put together these thoughts for all the world to see. But ... well, it's totally asinine.
"Gentleman, unhand your Jack and Coke. Ladies put down the Mojitos. Finally the masterful folks at the house of [redacted] have created quite a stir, crafting innovative cognac cocktails which are as tantalizing, as they are socially acceptable for both genders to consume.
This summer, the luxurious libation [redacted], teamed up with New York’s own mixologist [redacted] to create a roster of sensual cognac based cocktails that crumble the masculine association often tacked to the amber spirit.
The fan favorite is the [redacted], whose blend of fleshy fig and champagne, gives it an appeal accessible to all tastes and sexes."
Really? There are still boy drinks and girl drinks?
Because I feel completely comfortable ordering liquor on the rocks (BOY), and I know plenty of guys who consume blended sweet things (GIRL).
Look at us, challenging society!
In fact, I can't remember the last time I heard someone mocked for ordering a certain kind of drink.
Overheard August 03, 3:04 p.m. Two 13-ish boys in the parking lot of Soak City, Wednesday night:
-- Dude, why would you get your nose piereced? Don't you want to get married or something someday? -- Yeah. I guess. -- So there you go. -- But, I mean, if the girl loved me, don't you think she wouldn't care about my nose ring? -- (pause) I don't know. I wouldn't push it, dude.
Maggie Gras: A Success! August 01, 4:38 p.m. Birthday week was so fun, it's going to take me at least another week to recover.
It was pretty awesome -- and it completely made up for last year, when I missed my own party because my boyfriend was in the hospital.
Friday night was dinner at Zin. I had never been there before, but I had seen rave reviews on the Chowhounds message board, so I figured it would be pretty good.
I didn't expect it to be fantastic, though. Everything from the wine to the food to the service was top-notch. And the fries -- that's what heaven tastes like.
Next it was on to the Parker for cocktails, where my boyfriend relaxed on the couch while my friends and I chatted by the fire pit that wasn't actually on fire.
Then came an afterhours party at my place -- and you don't want to see those photos. (Or rather, I'm not allowed to show you those photos.)
Saturday, my actual birthday, included sushi for breakfast, movie at the River, presents from friends, dinner downtown ... and then drinks at Fusion One 11, my very favorite place in the desert for cocktails.
The very sweet people there made me an espresso martini, my favorite, and served it to me all birthday-style.
Sunday was trapeze school, which was incredible. Look for the story soon in The Desert Sun.
Last night marked the final celebration of Maggie Gras, a great little poker party with my friends at my place.
Check it -- my boyfriend got four aces:
We also ate a lot of cupcakes that I made from scratch -- chocolate, mojito and these fantastic little orange cream cupcakes:
I am so thankful to have such great friends who made my birthday so very special. Mwah!
Miami Vice August 01, 11:14 a.m. I spent so much time writing about "Miami Vice" for last Friday's Weekend section, I was one of the suckers who actually paid money to see it in the theaters.
The bad: Super boring first half. Wooden dialogue. Confusing plot. No three-act structure. Blatant product placement for Bacardi mojitos. Too many drug lords. Weird hair that distracts from story. Colin Farrell's occasional Southern accent.
The good: Shower scene is proof that Colin Farrell has bathed at least once.
Also, this was my first time watching a film at The River in Rancho Mirage. The theater was pretty nice -- good sound, nice seats, quality screen.
The weird thing is that just before the previews began, an usher walked in front of the audience and said, "Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen ..."
A hush fell over the place.
"Your movie will begin in just a moment ..."
Whoa. What's this all about?
"We would appreciate it if you could turn off your cell phones -- or at least turn them to vibrate -- during the film."
The whole place broke out in applause, while the usher blushed and shuffled out of the theater.
Bookworm Gets Pissed July 25, 5:23 p.m. I don't know why I keep going back to the Palm Springs Public Library, even when it makes me sad and angry.
This feels like an abusive relationship.
My first issue with the library is the two-week borrowing period. That's crazy.
I've worked at libraries and have been an active patron at libraries for as long as I can remember, and I've never heard of such an insanely short loan period. Maybe it's just a California thing. I don't know.
And then ... insanely short loan periods lead to insanely high overdue fines.
Actually, I don't really have such a problem with paying fines. It's my own fault -- my books are overdue, and I deserve to pay. Plus, I know from experience that libraries are sorely underfunded, so I really don't mind giving them a few extra bucks. I think of it as charity.
Today my fine was $12. No problem. Except I only had $11 in my purse -- and the library only accepts cash or checks.
What kind of policy is that? I don't know too many people who carry cash anymore. And for that matter, what are checks?
After a patron accrues more than $5 in fines, borrowing is suspended. So, common sense would dictate that if I pay $7, $8, maybe even $11 of my $12 fine, I should be able to borrow books again.
But no. Fines must be paid in full.
(Here I will give props to the very nice woman at the circulation desk who offered to put my books on hold for a couple days until I could come back with the money to pay my fine. That was very kind, and she didn't have to do that.)
Funny thing is, I even tried to renew the books over the telephone, though nobody answered the phone during normal business hours.
I didn't have much luck online either, as the online catalog has never once worked for me. And not because I don't know what I'm doing -- but because the page simply doesn't work.
Oh, but there's more. The following policies really Dewey my decimal system:
* Fines accrue even on Sundays and holidays, even though the facility is not open. Sneaky, library. Very sneaky.
* Magazines cannot be renewed.
* Only five items can be reserved for free. You have to pay a fee for the rest.
* Didn't pick up your reserved item? Don't worry. You'll be charged for not borrowing it.
* Worst crime of all: They don't send overdue notices.
I recently found a library book that had accidentally gotten stuck in my bookcase. I guess my boyfriend or I stuck it there when we were cleaning. It was way, way overdue, so I asked the man at the circulation desk why I hadn't been notified about it.
"We don't really do that kind of thing," he said.
"What kind of thing? Overdue notices?"
"Yeah," he said. "We don't really send anything unless it really gets up there. Like $50 or $100 or something."
I love libraries, so it hurts me to say this -- I think from now on I'll be getting my books from Amazon.com.
Letters! We Get Letters! July 20, 4:39 p.m. My column about hating L.A. is generating some of the best, most crankiest hate mail I've ever received.
"Maggie Downs column condemning Hollywood 'types' as superficial and uninteresting smacked of an outsider who took a shot at making it into the bigtime."
Has nobody ever poked fun at L.A. before in front of this guy? Jeebus. Watch some "Entourage."
I like this one:
"As far as the party you 'attended' ... think about the friend who dragged you there against your will and insisted you party and play with these miscreants. Obviously you were not invited on your own and couldn't handle being a tag-along so had to come back to the desert and berate the people in The City of the Angels."
Heh. I like how they put attended in quotes, like I only allegedly went to that party.
I will give L.A. this: Angelenos are very passionate about their city.
Makes me wonder why they left.
Anyway, venomous letters that slam me personally and professionally do little to change my opinion of L.A. They only make it sound like a fine place full of bitter people.
Up in smoke July 18, 4:42 p.m. It's silly for me to say the fire was hard on me. I'm safe, my home wasn't affected, I didn't lose anything.
Emotionally it was tough to witness the wreckage and devastation. I saw things I never wanted to see and never want to see again. But that's nothing compared to what the people in Yucca Valley are going through.
I was exhausted, drained, tearful. And I had it lucky.
Here are some photos of what I saw during my reporting:
Gooooal! July 10, 4:08 p.m. I watched the World Cup this Sunday.
Correction: I watched the Italian stallions and their world cups this weekend.
The boyfriend and I watched the game from our friends' home in Coachella. As the invitation said, it was "ricotta vs. brie, olive oil vs. butter, chianti vs. champagne."
And it was mimosas vs. me.
Now I've never watched a game of soccer before in my life. Also we were watching it on Telemundo, and I don't speak a lick of Spanish. So the whole time I was like, "What? Huh? What's going on? Is head-butting acceptible in soccer?"
I was rooting for the Italians, mostly because I like their food better. Plus, I've never seen a team with more exquisite cheekbones. (Really, did you see them? I'm surprised they didn't pop the ball with those.)
The game was exciting. Everybody was screaming. Babies were crying. And I was watching through my fingers, as if I were sitting in a horror movie. It was just so intense during those sudden death kicks, I couldn't take it.
What a bad time to be a goalie. You're guarding something that's ten times as wide as you, and your entire country is relying on you to block a little ball that's coming at you. FAST.
I think they should put a few more goalies there during the penalty kicks. Make it more interesting. Make it more like foosball.
It would also be interesting if the ball was on fire. But I've already played that game. It's called Flaming Footies, and that's another story for another time.
All in all, not bad for my first game. I had a great time with my friends. The team I was rooting for won. And I spent a whole morning with a bunch of hot, sweaty, Italian men.
Note: If you visit the lake, please be mindful of the delicate ecosystem that exists around it. No smoking, no swimming and of course, pick up after yourselves. There's nothing worse than making a trek to a lovely, serene spot -- and having a Doritos bag waiting for you.
Wowee Zowee June 23, 4:01 p.m. 4 p.m. on the last day of Bonnaroo. The music is winding to a close. Soon my friends will want to hit the road.
The drunk guy next to me bellows, "Haaaappy faaaather's daaay, Stephen!"
On stage is Stephen Malkmus, former singer for Pavement, a band I've loved ever since I was a sad teenager.
Stephen Malkmus is also the second skinnest of all the rock stars I love. (First place goes to Moby.)
Backed by the Jicks, Malkmus plays most of the songs off his solo album, including my favorite, "Baby C'mon."
That Tent then delivers a musical one-two punch by following up with Sonic Youth, who brings more than two dozen guitars on stage for the hour-and-a-half show.
I love Sonic Youth. I remember when I was young and impressionable and a devoted Sassy reader, I wanted to grow up to be Kim Gordon. And there she is, less than 10 feet in front of me, hotter than hell and prowling around the stage like a tiger.
They're noisy, raw, gritty and perfect. And for anyone who hasn't yet witnessed what Thurston Moore can do with a guitar, I feel sorry for you. That man makes feedback sexy.
For the encore, Sonic Youth pulls Stephen Malkmus back on stage for "Expressway to Yr Skull."
Since Sonic Youth is touring with former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold, this is a mini-reunion that shines a floodlight of happiness into my little black heart.
What a show. What amazing live music. And what a way to end my four-day Bonnaroo extravaganza.
Fly Girl June 22, 12:03 p.m. Just a quick break from all the Bonnaroo talk (there's still more to come!) to rant about the terrible travel I encountered on my way back from Tennessee.
First off, I somehow planned the most roundabout way there and back.
To Tennessee: Palm Springs to Salt Lake City to Minneapolis/St. Paul to Louisville. Then my friend picked me up and drove me the rest of the way.
To Palm Springs: Louisville to Chicago to San Francisco to Palm Springs.
Six total flights. Four airlines. One giant headache.
My flight from Louisville to Chicago was delayed by 30 minutes, which was problematic, since I only had a 40-minute layover at O'Hare to begin with.
I asked the flight attendant for help. Her advice? "Run."
Ten minutes to go ...
I had a carry-on bag that was too large for the tiny express plane, so it was taken from me while I boarded. It was supposed to be waiting for me as I got off the flight.
It wasn't. It was the only carry-on to get mixed up with the baggage claim luggage. So I had to track that down.
Five minutes to go ...
Got my bag, but then I had to make my way from a concourse in the middle of the alphanet to one at the beginning. And I had to take a shuttle to get there.
The shuttle only held 12 people. I was the 13th in line.
One minute to spare ...
I was out of breath and about to hyperventilate, but I was on the plane!
Again my carry-on baggage was taken from me with a promise to be returned at the end of the flight. I was given a ticket as receipt, and the person said, "San Francisco?"
"Yes, San Francisco, then Palm Springs," I said.
This time I had a good hour between flights. Time to relax. Maybe I would grab a sandwich since I hadn't had time to eat all day.
But my carry-on was not there.
I asked the flight attendant for help. "No idea," she said.
I asked the baggage guys for help. They shrugged.
I asked the women at the gate for help. One said it was probably checked and would show up in baggage claim. (Thus defeating the whole purpose of carry-on luggage, but whatever.)
The other looked up the number on my receipt. "Are you Janice?" she said.
"Well, I think your bag is going to Las Vegas. Or maybe it just came from Las Vegas. I can't tell."
She called the people in baggage claim, who said the bag would probably end up in Palm Springs somehow.
One woman at the gate told me to check baggage claim anyway.
By this time, I only had 35 minutes before my next flight took off -- and this meant I would have to run to the baggage carousel, wait for my bag -- which might or might not be there -- and weasel my way back through security.
I ran to the baggage claim desk and told them my problem. They said they couldn't help me. And then they told me to go back to my gate.
I had to hold back my hot tears of frustration and anger. This is why I don't check my luggage! This is why I only use a little rolling suitcase!
It was worth a peek anyway at the carousel, I figured. I probably missed my flight already anyway.
And there it was. My bag. My bag! MY BAG!
Somehow I made it back through security -- again with a thorough pat-down, my third one of the trip, probably because I look so menacing -- and to my gate. I even had a minute to spare.
"Can we take that bag for you?" the flight attendant asked as I boarded the plane.
His beat is correct June 20, 6:05 p.m. Beck played one of the most entertaining -- albeit bizarre -- sets at this year's Bonnaroo music and arts festival. However, my description of it prompted my boyfriend to say, "Sweetie, what did you take before the show?"
But trust me. Everything I'm about to say really, truly happened.
Beck and his band took the stage and began playing. But on the video screens that flanked the stage, we didn't see Beck and the band. Instead, there were puppets/marionettes that looked exactly like Beck and the band members, right down to the same items of clothing.
Eventually the camera panned out to show that the puppet stage, which was on the real life stage, also had a puppet stage. (Whoa. So meta.)
Also dancing around the real life stage was a random guy, dressed like your average Weezer fan, who busted out some funny moves. He had a dancing puppet too.
After a few songs, Beck announced his band was going to take a break for dinner. Promptly a dinner table was carried onto the stage, complete with glassware, silver and china.
As Beck played "Golden Age," the band slowly joined in by clinking and clanging the glasses and plates with their forks and knives.
Cut to the puppets ... who were also eating dinner and playing with their silverware. Whoa.
After songs like "Devil's Haircut," "Deborah" and "Hell Yes," the band left the stage entirely. Meanwhile, the puppets danced and sang along to a recorded version of "Loser."
But the show wasn't over yet. A mockumentary starring the puppets on the video screens poked fun at Bonnaroo culture, like the wild drum circles, the pungent smell of patchouli and the epic enzymes, man, in the raw food smoothies.
The puppets even took aim at the next band scheduled to take to the stage, Radiohead, by singing, "I'm a creep, I'm a puppet ..."
The real life band took to the stage again. Only this time they were in bear costumes. And rapping. I swear I'm not making this up.
Then there was some sort of boombox competition, where each band member came on stage with increasingly bigger boomboxes. Finally an air traffic controller used glowsticks to wave in the largest stereo I've ever seen.
Bonnaroo in brief June 20, 11:28 a.m. Best musical moments: * Tom Petty performing an encore of "American Girl" with Stevie Nicks. * Nickel Creek's cover of Britney's "Toxic" -- on fiddles. * Beck's entire set. * Sonic Youth doing an encore with Stephen Malkmus and the bassist from Pavement. * Andrew Bird's magical performance of "Fake Palindromes."
Best thing I packed: Sunblock.
Second best: Bug spray.
Best way to get on my bad side: Force me to go back to the campsite during My Morning Jacket.
Best sign written by hippies: "Warning. Random searches ahead, dude."
Best use of $10: Quick cold shower in a trailer.
Best use of $1: Grilled cheese sandwich.
Best thing written on a woman's belly: "Mescaline please."
Best conspiracy theory whispered to me: "Morning is a myth perpetrated by the man to frighten and confuse you."
Best overheard conversation: DUDE 1: So tell me again what Vaseline is called. DUDE 2: Petroleum jelly, man.
Best typo on a T-shirt: "If you don't know what schwag is your smoking it." (Correct spelling of 'schwag,' but wrong 'your.')
Best way to transport a 4-foot plastic statue of Yoda: Red wagon.
Best couple: Woman dressed as flapper making out with guy dressed as cow.
Best use of green paint and gold glitter: Painted naked man.
Best decision about footwear: Birkenstocks.
Best thing about leaving Bonnaroo: Showers. With soap and everything.
Day one at Bonnaroo June 17, 08:52 a.m. Finally, a computer!
I can't wait to come home and tell you all about Bonnaroo. It's probably as opposite as it could get from Coachella while still being a music and arts festival.
Yesterday was great. Started off with Andrew Bird, a music professor from Chicago I had never heard before. Now I'm totally in love. He sounds very Jeff Buckley-ish, without all the really high notes.
Andrew Bird also wins the prize for most whistling during a set -- someone else here said he was the greatest pop whistler since Scorpions.
After that I saw a little Seu Jorge, which was great and some Ben Folds.
I had planned on checking out G. Love, but at that point my feet were all worn out and the humidity was really getting to me. So I stood underneath a muddy fountain instead and tried to take off the top layer of grime.
In the afternoon I watched Nickel Creek, which was a great live experience. They were rocking, the crowd was high energy and everyone was dancing -- except for the few people who thought they were there to see Nickelback, that is.
Highlight of the set was a cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic," which sounds great on a fiddle.
After Death Cab for Cutie, my friends and I grilled some dinner back at the campsite and rested up before the evening's big performance, Tom Petty.
I have to say, Tom Petty is one hell of a great performer. He played for nearly three hours, during which he played all the old goodies. He ended the set with a cover of "Gloria," then came back for an excellent encore of "American Girl."
He also sang one random little segue about smoking more weed, which made the crowd go absolutely nuts.
We checked out a little bit of My Morning Jacket, before heading back to the campsite and calling it a night. I fell asleep to the sound of "Off the Record" wafting through the farmland.
Cheeseburger in Hell June 14, 11:16 p.m. Today I did the nastiest -- but also most awesome -- thing.
I came up with this brilliant plan to eat 100 In-N-Out burgers.
Originally, the idea was for me to do it by myself.
But coming in at 1/8th of a pound per patty, that adds up quickly to many pounds of meat. I got a couple other reporters involved, and then some editors and then ...
That was today's lunch.
My idea went from bad to worse when we actually picked up the burgers. The cheese, which had cooled off and taken on a glossy sheen, attached itself to the greasy burger paper. It was one big coagulated mess.
Still, we ate and ate and ate ...
And then we ate some more, until we were all glassy-eyed and fatigued ...
And ... well, you'll just have to read Saturday's story to find out the rest. It's quite a doozy.
Countdown to Bonnaroo: Part Twoaroo June 14, 10:55 a.m. This is what the next few days look like for me during the Bonnaroo Music Festival.
THURSDAY: Insanely expensive flight to Louisville, where I will be picked up by my friend, who is driving down from Des Moines. Together we will make our way to Tennessee.
FRIDAY * Can't decide between Ben Folds, Seu Jorge and Devandra Banhart, who are all appearing at basically the same time. * G. Love & Special Sauce * Nickel Creek * Death Cab for Cutie * Oysterhead * Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers * My Morning Jacket or Lyrics Born/Common/Blackalicious
SATURDAY * The Magic Numbers * Clap Your Hands Say Yeah * Elvis Costello and The Imposters featuring Allen Toussaint * moe. * Gomez * Beck * Cypress Hill * Radiohead * Preservation Hall Jazz Band * Masquerade ball, featuring a secret band * Sasha
SUNDAY * Mike Doughty's Band * Rusted Root * Refugee Allstars of Sierra Leone * Need to decide between Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, the Streets and Stephen Malkmus * Need to decide between Sonic Youth, Atmosphere and Steve Earle. I'm leaning toward Sonic Youth, because I've never seen them live before. * Phil Lesh & Friends
MONDAY: Travel, with lots of music in my ears and fond memories in my head.
By the way, if any of you guys will be there too, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll hook up.
I was helpless. I didn't know what to do. My nails were lost in translation.
Eventually I saddled over to the nail dryer, where my friend snickered at my newly bedazzled fingertips.
"That's ... uh, cute," she said.
"No it's not. It's horrible."
"What are they? Hearts?"
"Yes. Gigantic, brilliant, shiny orange and green hearts. On my nails, for all the world to see."
I felt really prissy and stupid for complaining about rhinestones on my nails, but come on. This was very much not the subdued, sophisticated look I was after. Not to mention I was paying for this.
I don't know what bothered me more. The fact that this manicurist thought she could get all rhinestone cowboy on me without my permission -- or the fact that this lady looked at me and thought, "Now there's a green and orange rhinestone heart kind of person."
Me-OW! May 31, 3:23 p.m. This weekend I fell in love with a little guy named Ham.
He was featured in the Desert Sun on Sunday -- an 8-week-old kitten with a small white body and an oversized gray head.
Today I checked up on Ham at Animal Samaritans SPCA. He hadn't been adopted yet, so my boyfriend and I made the trip out to Thousand Palms to see how we liked the kitty -- and more importantly, how the kitty liked us.
Unfortunately, poor Ham has a wound on his ear and couldn't go anywhere until he healed. His personality wasn't exactly what we were looking for either.
Then I fell for a teeny tiny Tabby named Bebop, who immediately curled up on my neck and began chewing my hair.
I loved him very much, but I wasn't 100 percent certain. I usually spend a day or two thinking about a purchase like shoes or a new handbag -- shouldn't I do the same with a living, breathing creature?
It made me sad, but I left the shelter empty-handed. And trust me, that's a really difficult thing to do when there are so, so many adorable little cats, mewing for attention and begging to be loved.
Until then, I have Kung Pao Kitten waiting at home.
Hot Hot Heat, Part II May 25, 11:05 a.m. Yesterday I left my yoga mat and six-inch platforms in the car all day, because I had dance class right after work.
I didn't bring them inside because I'm forgetful. There's a good chance I would have gone to class while my yoga mat was holding down the fort at the Desert Sun. Also, who brings six-inch heels to work? Not me.
Anyway. I'm proud to report my experiment was a success.
Yoga mats do not melt in 104-degree heat. And on second thought, no duh. Those things do not turn into puddles of goo during sizzling hot bikram yoga classes. Yoga mats are tough little things.
And then there are the heels. Again, I should have had more faith in their durability. If they melted at the first sign of heat, strippers wouldn't wear them.
The Wheel World May 24, 10:04 a.m. I'm posting this for my friend, Zach in Palm Springs, who bikes more than some people drive.
Two-wheeled transportation will take over Los Angeles when the Bicycle Film Festival rolls into town.
During the festival, which is June 21-24, visitors can enjoy complimentary valet bike parking during all the events.
Known as the largest bicycle related cultural event in the country, the four-day Bicycle Film Festival celebrates the bicycle through feature films, movie shorts, artists and musicians.
The first night kicks off with an art show at the Don O’Melveny Gallery, 5472 Wilshire Blvd. Participating artists include: Peter Sutherland, David Choe, Shepard Fairey, Swoon and others.
On June 22, festival attendees will invade Spaceland, 1717 Silverlake Blvd., for a dance party and rock show.
Then gear up for the screenings on June 23 and 24, at screenings at Laemmle’s Fairfax 3, 7907 Beverly Blvd. Each one features one full-length bicycle themed film, (who knew they made 'em?) preceded by fun shorts that were chosen from hundreds of submissions from around the world.
For more information, check out www.bicyclefilmfestival.com.
And for all of us who complain about gas prices, this would be an excellent time to take advantage of pedal power.
Setting the record straight May 22, 08:52 a.m. Excerpt from hate mail about me that was sent my boss:
"You brought her out here, from the East coast, ???? Why? What did you think we were missing way out here in the desert? Is there some segment of the populace out here that you want to reach through her columns ----- who are they? You are paying her to get mud baths, go to concerts, get drunk and barff, go on a cruise and go topless, and then letting her tell us (in her column) about some strange rather juvenile-like conduct she engaged in."
1. Did Cincinnati become part of the East Coast since I've moved? Good for them.
2. I've never been to a mud bath.
3. I don't barf. Or even "barfff," for that matter.
4. Is this man under the impression that the Desert Sun somehow compensated me for my cruise? Not even close. And I have the credit card bills to prove it.
5. Apparently having fun is nothing to joke about and how dare I be so glib? I must stop this rather strange, juvenile-like behavior at once.
Ahoy, mateys! May 18, 2:55 p.m. My column today was about my recent cruise from Long Beach to Catalina Island to Ensenada, Mexico.
Neither my boyfriend nor I had ever taken a cruise before. And when I really thought about it, we hadn't taken a vacation together EVER. It was about time.
So the four-night trip was my gift to him for his birthday.
Happy birthday, Jason. Have some shots.
This cruise is a great little getaway that a lot of people from the desert take advantage of, because we're only two hours away from the port. That means travel costs are minimal. And if you book in advance, you can get a great three-or four-night vacation to Mexico for less than $300 per person.
I think we'll be taking lots of cruises. It was so much food! And fun! And FOOD! And what a stress-free way to travel!
It's certainly the biggest boat I've ever seen. (The one on the right.)
We had our cabin towels twisted into various animal shapes, like this monkey here.
We caught fish off the pier on Catalina Island.
And I saw Mexico for the first time! (And no, I didn't buy the sombrero. Though I did buy a totally authentic Gucci leather bag for $10.)
And Mexico was gorgeous:
Best of all, we made some fantastic new friends. They all live in Southern California, and I can't wait to hang out with them again:
And I think Jason and I came out of the experience closer than ever -- though we still haven't perfected the art of both of us looking at the camera at the same time.
Gnarles Barkley Gets Crazy May 01, 5:03 p.m. I thought perhaps the heat was getting to me, quite likely in the blazing desert afternoon. Or maybe it was just dehydration.
To secure a good spot for the 6:40 p.m. Gnarles Barkley set, I got to the Gobi Tent around 6 p.m. and copped a squat on the ground with a new friend from New Mexico. As the minutes passed, the crowd packed in around us until we were lost in a sea of feet and knees.
When a rumbling cheer rolled through the crowd, my new friend and I stood up and saw quite possibly the most surreal thing of the whole Coachella Music and Arts Festival.
We were anticipating two-man dynamic duo Gnarles Barkley, made up of singer Cee-Lo and DJ DangerMouse. Instead there were 14 musicians on stage, all dressed in Wizard of Oz-inspired costumes.
The Wicked Witch of the West was on drums. Another witch was on guitar. Two scarecrows were singing backup, along with Dorothy. On strings were the flying monkeys.
DangerMouse hung in the background as the Tin Man, complete with heart. And Cee-Lo stole the stage as a boisterous, wild version of the Cowardly Lion.
The musicians launched into Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon."
"We're insaaaaane!" the lion roared, raising a staff into the air.
And thus began the most fun, funky, fabulous performance of the entire weekend. Butts did not stop shaking, not even once.
Cee-Lo, visibly hot but not showing any signs of slowing down, yelled, "Are you having a good time? You know, we're here for you. You're our first priority!"
He tossed off his lion's mane and robe, revealing a shirt that said, "Mean Ol' Lion."
The group played their UK hit "Crazy" and a number of songs from their much anticipated album, St. Elsewhere. (Due out May 9.) Another highlight was a simply amazing cover of the Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone."
Energy was high among the crowd, which was gyrating and dancing frenetically. Hands were often raised in the air, clapping or swaying to the funky beats.
With a gorgeous sunset as a backdrop, this performance completely made the whole weekend for me. It was simply awesome.
Family Ties April 25, 11:59 a.m. I'm still trying to figure out why I had such a great weekend in Northern California, even though my brother and I don't agree on politics, social justice, recycling, art, food, wine, entertainment, anything really.
Honestly, if we didn't look so much alike, I wouldn't believe we're part of the same family.
Still, we get along incredibly well. I also have so much respect for him for raising three of the most smart, beautiful girls in the world.
Here's me with Alley, a precocious little softball player. Her adorable freckles kill me:
Here's Alley with her stunning sister, Autumn:
And here's Amanda, who has grown into such a gorgeous woman.
We didn't spent too much time in the Sacramento area. I think my brother didn't really know what to do with me, so he turned me over to San Francisco.
Like, "Here, you deal with her."
There I met a waxylicious version of Beyonce:
I also saw a man made of foil:
I knew that my brother and his family wouldn't want to do anything I wanted to do, so I only made them stop by the one must-see on my list.
That would be 826 Valencia in the Mission District, home of the McSweeney's writing center. It's also a pirate supply store, selling eye patches, glass eyes, quills and doubloons.
One of my nieces stuck her hand in the store's large vat of lard, because there was a sign listing the uses of lard, one of which was hand cream.
She freaked out, and now I'm pretty sure she's scared of me since I'm the weird aunt who brought her to a pirate supply store. Arrrgh.
Still, it was a fantastic -- albeit tame -- weekend, as I didn't end up arrested or in Alcatraz.
B-I-N-G-Oh! April 20, 09:41 a.m. My column in today's Desert Sun is about drag queen bingo at Hamburger Mary's, which is probably the most fun you can have in the desert with your clothes on.
This is bingo like you've never seen B-4.
These aren't the traditional, yawn-inducing games. Instead players aim for "Frank & Beans" and "I Got B.O.!" (And those are just the printable names ...)
Here's Bridgette of Madison County, our mistress of bingo for the night, who was substituting for drag queen Belle Aire:
As the night's caller, Bridgette really let herself B-1 with the game, cracking jokes and sparing nobody with her barbed wit. At one point she grabbed a ball and shouted, "Who needs an 'I?' Besides Sandy Duncan?"
The venue opens out onto a sidewalk patio, and several passers-by stopped to watch a few minutes of the festivities. They were probably transfixed by all the howling, yelling and boisterous laughter.
One random guy on the sidewalk called out "BINGO!" -- tricking everyone into thinking that there was a winner. Of course, Bridgette hiked up her skirt and chased the guy down, spiky heels on her feet and her bingo paddle in hand.
The man on the sidewalk was the only loser, since everybody else comes out of this game a winner. Proceeds go to local and national charities.
Oh, I'm also going to take a tip from Bridgette and wear more makeup next time around. Her foundation is flawless!
The next event is May 1 at Hamburger Mary's. Are you game?
Nice Day for a White Party April 19, 12:55 p.m. On Sunday I hit the White Party Tea Dance, along with my co-worker, Richard Guzman.
Sadly, I discovered that I had been far too underdressed at Saturday's spectacular festivities, and now I was far too overdressed for Sunday's bash. The party was held in an empty dirt lot at the end of Arenas, and my adorable heels sank into the earth with my every step.
So I retired to the VIP section, which was on a solid platform.
The bonus was that the VIP section also had the best port-a-potties I'd ever seen. There was running water, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, everything. Plus, the toilet seat was clean, likely because nobody had put it down all night.
This was a much better situation for me than Saturday night, when I was kicked out of the women's restroom.
"I'm sorry. This is a men's restroom," said the security guard at the door.
I eyed the sign on the door again. The stick person most definitely had a skirt. And besides, the word above it was "WOMEN."
"Tonight this is a men's restroom," the guard said. "You're going to have to go someplace else."
"That would be the floor," I said.
He quickly found me a security escort to a secondary women's bathroom.
Anyway, back to Sunday's party. As dusk turned to dark, the crowd really started to get crazy. And then when dance diva Anastacia took the stage, it was all over.
I like the rhythm gymnastics guy who has climbed the rafters on the left.
I think we're alone now? Not quite.
Also in the VIP section was Tiffany, who was one of the weekend's performers. Richard proclaimed his straightness to the '80s pop star and thanked her profusely for appearing nude in Playboy. I asked who her favorite New Kid was. (Answer: Jonathan.)
But really I wanted to know how she got her skin to look so flawless. I think she sucked all the electric youth out of Debbie Gibson.
The evening ended with beautiful fireworks, choreographed to "Last Dance."
And nothing brings shirtless men together like a few flaming Roman candles.
And then the festivities were over -- until next year.
There's No Place Like Home April 12, 11:10 a.m. My column for tomorrow is about how I found a little taste of home right here in the desert -- which satisfied most of the homesickness I've been feeling.
But there are still other things I miss.
Like the really tall buildings downtown and the fountain that was in the opening credits of "WKRP in Cincinnati."
And painted pigs. This one lives in the lobby at the Cincinnati Enquirer and was painted by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jim Borgman:
And the artsy part of Walnut Street, where the homeless and the ballet dancers collide:
And mornings at Findlay Market, where you can find all sorts of butchers and bakers and cheese makers, as well as mounds of produce:
And friends who get so drunk, we shave off their eyebrows:
And my neighborhood, Hyde Park, which was urban and funky, but homey and quaint at the same time:
And Cincinnati after dark, which is populated by all sorts of superheroes:
Love at First Bite April 06, 5:18 p.m. I didn't expect much, to be honest.
I love the idea of those "taste of" events, where you can sample food from many different restaurants in a community. But typically the price is too hefty for the portion sizes -- and I usually leave early to make myself a sandwich at home.
Not so at Bits & Bites of Rancho Mirage on Wednesday night.
The event, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and Rancho Mirage Restaurant Association, featured cuisine from more than 20 local eateries and was all-you-can-eat for one low price. (Plus proceeds went to the College of the Desert's Culinary Arts and Hospitality program.)
Eat I did. The food was delicious -- I found several new restaurants I want to try and only a couple I don't -- and the portions were huge.
From Haleiwa Joe's Seafood Grill, seared ahi on a potato crisp, topped with ginger, roe and some other stuff:
From Roy's came this yummy ravioli thingy, topped with a pepper sauce, mushrooms and microgreens salad:
Boyfriend fell hard for this prime rib au jus from Black Angus Steakhouse:
To finish it off, tiny pies from Marie Callender's ...
... and these pretty tarts from Wally's Desert Turtle:
Girls! Girls! Girls! March 31, 4:00 p.m. I spent this morning at the Wyndham and Riviera hotels, where women were taking over everything for Dinah Shore weekend.
And ... WOW. These aren't your mother's lesbians.
Long hair, cropped hair. Dresses, shorts, jeans, skirts. High heels, flip-flops, tennis shoes. Curves, boyish bodies, six-pack abs.
You can find pretty much every make and model of woman possible in Palm Springs right now. And, believe me, they are all hot.
Make that HOTT.
I saw a tan, long-limbed woman wearing a white tank with the teeniest, tiniest shorts the said, "Chix are for girls." A brunette with long, curly hair boasted a tee that read, "I'm not gay, but my girlfriend is." My favorite was a sexy girl in cut-off shorts and a shrunken shirt that read, "Totally girl powered."
I can't wait to attend this whirlwind of parties and fun. This is one of those weekends when I'm just so glad to be a girl.
Battle of the Bands March 29, 11:15 a.m. I have this wonderful, amazing, crazy friend, Reid. I love Reid, and I haven't seen him since he moved to Des Moines.
(I know. Who the hell moves to Des Moines?)
Our plan was to hit up a blockbuster music festival together this summer, a way to catch up, listen to some great bands and kick it old-school.
Unfortunately, he can't make it to Coachella, which I'll be attending with some other friends.
So our only options now are Lollapalooza in Chicago or Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn.
Lollapalooza has Wilco. The Flaming Lips. The Shins. Eels. Ryan Adams. Broken Social Scene. The Smoking Popes. And about 130 other great acts.
It's also in Auguest, which gives me more time to save up cash for tickets and a flight.
The bonus is that I also have free accomodations in Chicago with this girl I know from the Internet. (Which is really less weird than it sounds.)
But Bonnaroo shares a lot of those great acts, like Sonic Youth, Nickel Creek and Death Cab for Cutie. They also boast Tom Petty. Beck. Elvis Costello. Mike Doughty. Phil Lesh. Buddy Guy. Ben Folds.
And there's also Radiohead. (But I seem to be the only person in the world who is pretty meh about them.)
Plus, Bonnaroo really appeals to the dirty hippie in me. The one who camps out in mud, drinks warm beer and truly likes the smell of my own filth. And chances are I'd know a decent portion of the crowd from my days following jam bands.
As a bonus, I'd be sharing a tent with my cute friend.
So now I can't decide. Bonnaroo? Or Lollapalooza?
Anybody have expert advice to offer? E-mail me at email@example.com.
Or if you're from the valley and planning on attending either one of them, let me know -- the bottle of Aquafina will be on me.
Best in Show March 28, 4:46 p.m. On Sunday I did the most Palm Springiest of Palm Springs things.
I attended a fashion show and watched a bunch of skinny bitches walk down the runway.
The dog fashion show at Koffi featured the spring line of Jackrocketwear canine couture by Jake Dynnis.
Dynnis, known as "dog tailor to the stars," has outfitted the pooches of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Sean Hayes, Jessica Simpson, Tori Spelling and more.
Check out this little fluffy princess.
This model was twice the size of the other girls. I bet she went home and purged.
This here is like Naomi and Tyra on the same runway -- a catfight waiting to happen. Me-OW!
Even dog fashion shows have their groupies.
This one was just there for some tail.
"And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten." -- Memorable quote from "Best in Show"
Proceeds from the event went to the Friends of the Palm Street Animal Shelter. Another supporter of the event included Jan Rasmusen, the author of "Scared Poopless: The Straight Scoop on Dog Care," along with her coauthor, a Maltese named Chiclet.
Jan donates all author royalties from the book to canine causes and makes the book available as a fundraiser for canine organizations. (For more info on the book, check out www.dogs4dogs.com.)
Baby, You Can't Drive My Car March 27, 10:48 a.m. On an otherwise great night out with the girls, I had an unfortunate valet incident.
Pulled up to this little bar/hotel where there's no choice but to valet. I hate being bullied into a parking service, but I can deal.
The guy takes my keys and says, in his very thick accent, something about how he'll park it close to the front. Whatever. I'll be at the bar.
I ask for the ticket and he nearly berates me for this.
"You want ticket? What you want ticket for? The car right here."
I finally get the ticket.
I walk into the bar, sit down with my friends and order a martini. Not two minutes later, the valet walks in. He's holding my keys in the air and yelling, "PT Cruiser? Who has PT Cruiser?"
I said, "That's me."
He says, "You have ticket?"
So I fish the ticket out of my pocket, hand it to him and take my keys. Which is weird, right? Since every other valet keeps the keys and gives them to you later.
I turn around and start talking to my friends again. I can feel the guy behind me, but I refuse to turn around.
The guy clears his throat. "Ahem." I still refuse to turn around. Finally he taps me on the shoulder and says very loudly, "I work for tips only." I said, "OK." And he said, "No. I work for tips only." He holds out his hand.
I was really shaken up by this and started trying to dig money out of my purse. My friend handed me $5, and I shoved it his way. With that, he left.
I've worked for tips before, so I tip well and often. But I traditionally tip for services rendered. In this instance, there was no service.
See, when I left the bar, I realized the valet had left for the night. And my car was parked in the PRECISE SPOT WHERE I HAD LEFT IT. The guy merely took the keys out of the ignition, pulled the parking brake and walked inside to demand money.
Here Comes the Bride March 10, 5:39 p.m. I've learned a surefire way to stop traffic in Palm Springs. Dress up like a bride:
The Oscars party I attended on Sunday stipulated that everyone had to dress as a movie character. I chose the Corpse Bride -- long, white dress with a ragged hem, plastic spiders and worms and very pale, dead-looking makeup.
In retrospect, I should have put on the veil AFTER I arrived at the party. I've never heard so many honks, screams and yells before in my life.
At a stoplight, one car full of guys rolled down their windows and bellowed, "NO GROOM?"
I tried to explain that my groom was in the land of the living -- but by that time traffic had started moving again.
Hike 4 Hope March 06, 5:00 p.m. I really wanted to participate in Sunday's Hike 4 Hope, a cool hiking event through Indian Canyons that raises money for the City of Hope cancer center.
Unfortunately, my friends and I found out about the event too late to register through snail mail. And the online registration button on the Hike 4 Hope website didn't work. The website also didn't include any contact numbers. We were screwed.
So instead of raising money for charity, I slept late, read the New York Times and did absolutely nothing for hope.
Maybe by next year, this really incredible event will update their methods of registration to include those of us who shop, pay bills and bank online.
Always March 02, 5:46 p.m. I'm having trouble coming up with what to say about last Saturday's celebration of life service for David Starr -- even though I've been thinking about it incessantly and trying to wrap my head around his death for a month now.
I could probably fill pages with my emotions -- anguished over the loss of a friend; heartbroken for his partner, Ed; angry that such a vibrant light was extinguished; but mostly, blessed to have known him, even for such a short time.
I could talk about how I like thinking of David Starr making heaven a much more beautiful place. I think of him saying to God, "OK, we really need to bring you into this millennium. You've GOT to do something about that beard. And those robes? They might work for Moses, but it's just not you. Think power suit."
I could talk about the service, which was the most fabulous and attractive funeral I've ever attended. It was also a really fitting tribute. It was all big hats, black sunglasses, designer dresses, tiny dogs, laughing, crying, an open bar and an excellent soundtrack.
I could talk about all the love and memories everyone shared that day, all the stories and laughter, all the beauty and sadness.
But if I wrote everything out, it would be long and rambling, and it still wouldn't do the man justice.
Instead I'll just let these lyrics speak for me -- because this wonderful Stevie Wonder song played during the ceremony and summed everything up so perfectly.
"As around the sun the earth knows she's revolving And the rosebuds know to bloom in early May Just as hate knows love's the cure You can rest your mind assure That I'll be loving you always
As now can't reveal the mystery of tomorrow But in passing will grow older every day Just as all is born is new Do know what I say is true That I'll be loving you always
Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky -- always. Until the ocean covers every mountain high -- always. Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea -- always. Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream."
Me and the kid February 28, 3:55 p.m. I had a whirlwind of a weekend that included the Greek Festival in Palm Desert, hiking in Rancho Mirage, partying in Palm Springs, a winery in Temecula, one funeral and one afternoon at the Living Desert. And throughout it all, I had a horrible cold.
But I came out of it all with a new boyfriend. Here's me and Billy:
I also learned this weekend that goats really don't like to have their pictures taken. Or, at least, they don't like to stand still for self-portraits.
I tried and failed several times with several goats before this little guy let me take a photo with him. And then he tried to eat the camera strap.
Who's That Guy? February 23, 4:17 p.m. Every time I go out with my friends, I end up with manesia.
(man-ne'zuh -- n. Partial or total loss of memory of a man you've met at a club, usually resulting from shock, psychological disturbance, brain injury or dirty martinis. Coined by fellow bloggers.)
It happened again last weekend at an L.A. club. It was my best friend's birthday, and we laughed and drank and danced until 8 a.m. And now my digital camera is filled with complete and utter strangers.
For example, who's this guy?
(I wasn't all bad that night. Note how I'm drinking water.)
And here's a stranger, wrapped all over my friend.
And then there's this incredibly tall person I don't know:
Romance Poll February 13, 2:40 p.m. Just in time for Valentine's Day, I received a press release from Classmates.com, all about first love and high school sweethearts.
The romance poll says that:
* 70 percent of people still think about their first love. * 50 percent said they would like to be contacted by an old flame. * 30 percent have been contacted by a former love within the past five years. * 29 percent met their true love in school (K-12).
I was lucky. I had the perfect high school boyfriend. He was sweet, loving, kind. He had a romantic name, just like a 1940s gumshoe, and my parents loved the heck out of him. I have nothing but fondness for this guy.
He's married now, living somewhere in Florida, doing some Navy thing. We e-mail only occasionally, mostly just to keep each other up-to-date on our families.
I know that there are some real-life love reconnection stories out there. Maybe this Internet game of predator and prey works for other people.
As for me, I'm really happy that my first love remains exactly where he's supposed to be -- in my memories.
By the way, that survey also contained this weird little nugget ...
* 31 percent of respondents think Valentine's Day is a time to think about loved ones.
Huh? What are the other 69 percent thinking about for Valentine's Day?
The Twinkie Defense February 10, 2:25 p.m. "It's the only place around here to get a fried Twinkie ... Isn't that what you people eat in the Midwest?"
My colleague hadn't intended any harm by the statement.
We had been talking about the upcoming date festival, which I am so, so excited about. I asked if the festival had some great food. Then my co-worker brought up the fried Twinkie.
I'm not saying that we don't eat some strange things in the Midwest.
In Ohio we had this regional dish called goetta, made of ground meat (typically beef or pork) and steel cut oats. The concoction is spiced with bay leaves, rosemary, salt, pepper and thyme, sometimes onions. It is then shaped into loaves, cut into squares and fried.
Goetta is typically served alone as a breakfast meat, though you can occasionally find speciality dishes like goetta eggrolls, goetta pizza or spagoetta. And yes, it's as nasty as it sounds.
Then there's Cincinnati chili -- thin, sweet chili served over spaghetti noodles and topped with mounds of cheese.
And in Michigan I found these things called pasties -- which, I've learned, have nothing to do with strippers. (Although I'm sure the occasional stripper does enjoy a tasty meat pie.)
OK, so yeah. Weird beef-centric foods.
But fried Twinkies?
I've never even seen a fried Twinkie in Ohio. (And I did a little research on it. All 33 fat grams of that fried sucker were invented in Brooklyn.)
But now I'll come face to face with a fried Twinkie in California ...
Overheard January 25, 5:56 p.m. "It's burning when you pee? Aw, man. You shoulda ... Wow. You shoulda ... Oh Jesus H. Christ. It's BURNING?! I don't even know what to say. But you've got to have that CHECKED."
-- One man to another in the parking lot of Stater Bros., Vista Chino, Palm Springs.
Feel awful? You should January 24, 5:27 p.m. Depressed? No wonder.
Today is officially the most depressing day of the year, according to a press release that popped up in my inbox the other day.
It said: "People feel as if there is a shadow over them; with low light levels creating Seasonal Affective Disorder, holiday bills hitting the mailbox, and New Year’s resolutions already broken, depression is rampant."
Well, when you put it that way ... yeah.
Then they quoted a stress expert who said most people are feeling a "flat, hollow, sad feeling" right about now.
I find that I'm much happier this winter than I was last. It could be because I'm in a better, more content place in my life.
Or it could be that I'm just happy I don't have to spend a half hour each morning warming up my car and scraping ice off the windshield.
It sounds so simple, but I think it's true: Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.
(Wait. Did somebody already use that line?)
Anyway, I mentioned Seasonal Affective Disorder to several people I know who grew up in Southern California. They hadn't even heard of it before.
We're so friggin' lucky here.
And what makes me really happy is that if today is the most depressing day of the year, the other 364 are gonna be awesome.
Ballooning January 12, 12:18 p.m. My column in today's Desert Sun was about my excellent adventure with some balloonists.
There's only so much space in the paper, however, and we couldn't run all of my photos. So here are a few other favorite pictures from the experience.
This is cool view of the balloon, looking straight up from the basket:
Here's the balloon that plopped down next to us after we landed:
Here are some balloons taking off above Indio for the balloon race. During a race, all the balloons float over to where there's a big X on the ground; then the pilots toss down beanbags and try to hit it.
I love thinking that the driver of this balloon is like, "Get out of the fast lane!"
Maximum Exposure January 04, 10:41 p.m. There's something about me that makes people want to pull down their pants.
People expose themselves to me about every other month or so. I probably see more genitals than the average jockstrap.
Sometimes the men -- and it's always men -- pull down their pants, sometimes they just let it all hang out, sometimes they are entirely naked from the waist down.
I must be giving off some vibe of the let's-see-what-you-got variety. (Or don't got, in several unfortunate cases.)
Most recently it happened on the corner of Gene Autry Trail and Vista Chino as I was running some errands. The man on the corner pulled a show-and-go. He flashed and ran. And I just shook my head and wondered why Matthew McConaughey never hangs out at that intersection -- literally.
We didn't start off the year on great terms. Remember when my gyno found a breast lump? Turns out it wasn't cancer, but it was scary as hell just the same.
After I switched jobs and moved across the country from my family, I was sprayed by a skunk. Then my car was stolen from my driveway.
And because I still haven't received a check from my insurance company to pay for my stolen vehicle, I paid for my new car on my credit cards.
But, by far, the biggest turning point in my life came in July, when 2005 socked me in the gut.
That's when my boyfriend was seriously injured in a skydiving accident. It affected me so profoundly, I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of my emotions.
He shattered his pelvis and broke his back in five places. He had been a professional skydiver with no insurance, so instantly he lost his career, his income and his ability to walk for several months -- all while racking up a mess of bills.
We also lost a friend in the same incident, someone who had been jumping for 20 years and was very much loved at the dropzone.
I was one of the skydivers in the memorial jump, which was one of the most emotionally draining things I've ever done in my life.
That was such a bad time, it's almost like someone else's life was unfolding. I learned to sleep on the hospital floor, when I managed to get sleep at all. I barely showered. I cried my way through a viewing, funeral, burial and memorials. I lost my ability to function on my own -- luckily, I had friends who drove me places, who shoved food my way, who brought necessities to the hospital, who fed my cat.
And my boyfriend -- he was such a strong, loving force throughout the whole ordeal. He amazes me each and every day.
I'm giving up on you, 2005.
I've found someone who offers me a better future; someone in which I have more hope; someone named 2006.
A Visit From St. Nick: Vegas Style December 27, 3:15 p.m.
My holiday weekend in Vegas:
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the casino Every creature was stirring, even those playing keno; The stockings were pulled up to thigh-high, In hopes that Santa Baby soon would be by; The children clutched their fake IDs, Visions of sugar-plums they hoped to see; Mama in her mini, and the boys in their suits, Had just hit the slots looking for loot; When at the Bellagio fountain arose such a clatter, I jumped from the craps table to see was the matter. Away to the door I flew like a flash, Only I couldn’t find it because I had been drinking – and casinos tend to be really sneaky about exits anyway. About ten minutes later I wandered outside And saw nothing but a 16-year-old bride. Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But all my friends with a bucket of beer. "Now, Miller! Now, Coors! Now, Bud and Red Tail! On, Guinness! On Molson! On, lager and ale! To the bottom of the bottle! To the top of that wall! Now drink away! Drink away! Drink away all!" Later inside the bar, I heard on the roof Prancing and pawing just like a hoof. I told the bartender there's reindeer up there, Just about the time I fell out of my chair. I tried to explain about Prancer and Vixen, But the bouncer accused me of being too blitzen. I was tossed outside with my new chums A lady of the night and a group of bums. One man immediately had me on alert -- His clothes were all soiled with ashes and dirt. A beard, big and white, covered his face like snow, And he looked as giddy as Kate Moss on blow. His eyes -- oh, they twinkled! His dimples, how nice! His ears dripped with bling, his neck covered in ice. His teeth held the stump from a Swisher Sweet, And his feet tapped out a jazzy beat. He had a broad face and a little round belly, But to get a whiff of him was quite smelly. He was chubby and plump, a rear like J. Lo, And he didn't say much other than "Ho, ho, ho." A wink of his eye and a smile on his face, Made me reach into my purse to feel for my mace. He shook his head no and said I have nothing to fear, He was only in town to pass out Christmas cheer. Suddenly people were winning all over town, Every dealer began wearing a frown; As the slot machines began to gush, Every hand at the poker table was a royal flush. The man leaned over and said, "Don't you see? "As Santa, I want everyone to be as lucky as me!" Turns out Saint Nick was far from lame, To my surprise, he had lots of game. Then I heard him exclaim, as the valet brought his sleigh over, "Drink some water tonight, so you won't be hungover."
A Whiter Shade of Pale December 14, 11:39 a.m. It seems like everyone I meet here likes to get naked. A lot.
Beyond all the naturist resorts, I'm discovering naked hikes, naked picnics, naked board games. Even the church I want to attend has services in the buff.
Is being a nudist a prerequisite for living in Palm Springs? Or is it a side effect? Is it simply the pleasant climate that makes everyone want to get all nekkid?
Unfortunately, I come here with the pallor of an Ohioan. I would be more likely to shed my inhibition -- and my BCBG dress -- if I wasn't the exact color of mayonnaise. I'm like a marshmallow with feet.
So no matter how great the church, you won't be finding me at any nude services.
Sicko December 06, 12:06 p.m. I've got this nasty sinus/cold/throat/head thing that's going around, so there's not much to report beyond what's happening on my "Six Feet Under" DVDs. My wild nights lately have involved a lot of TV watching, nose blowing and clawing at my own head and trying to rip my throat out.
Woo. I'm so cra-zay.
My mom always used to do this secret German remedy every time I was sick, which involved boiling fresh-squeezed lemon juice and forcing it down my gullet.
I don't know that this secret German rememdy does much other than provide my body with some additional Vitamin C. So I'm not confident that this hot and sour torture does anything a glass of orange juice wouldn't do. But last night I was feeling bad enough that I decided it was worth a try.
That's when I discovered one more really great thing about living here. I can run outside in my pyjamas and pick lemons right off the fruit trees, instead of bundling up my sick self and driving to the store.
Punk'd December 02, 2:39 p.m. My insurance company still hasn't settled my claim on my stolen car. They haven't even told me the status of my claim. Heck, they haven't even returned my numerous phone calls and messages.
I'm beginning to think I don't have an insurance company at all. It's just a bunch of stoners in a living room with an answering machine.
"Wait, dude. She's calling again ..."
"Ohmigod, this is so funny. She actually thinks she's calling some insurance company."
"SHHH! Shut up, man. She's crying. This is hilarious!"
Hey, I'm still searching for my skydiving gear, which was stolen along with my Honda. I've tried the local dropzones already, and so far no dice. But I'm hoping that one of you guys might stumble upon it somewhere.
So if you see any of the things pictured above -- possibly at a pawn shop near you! -- please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overheard November 30, 06:51 a.m. "There’s a reason why I’ve spent my whole life running away from things. My therapist said there are gypsies in my past. "See, it’s not my fault!" — Man at the Sky Village Marketplace swap meet
Baby, You Can Drive My Car November 29, 09:36 a.m.
I have a new car now.
I think the Evil Insurers pushed me into it -- the way they haven't returned my calls or made a decision about my stolen-and-recovered car.
But no matter. I have a car now. A pretty car. A car with the biggest whopping security system you've ever seen -- like lights and sirens and hopefully some explosions.
I was nervous purchasing a vehicle, because I know very little about cars. In fact, I would feel more comfortable buying a plane. But my new zippy car has enough features and gadgets and lights on the dashboard to resemble a cockpit, so I'm happy.
Here my boyfriend is calibrating the compass by driving around in 360s. Look at him go!
Saturday Night's Alright (For Crying) November 28, 11:23 a.m. At the end of the day, I know it's just a car.
But that didn't stop me from crying the ugly cry Saturday night -- red-faced and howling, hair matted to my cheeks, sniffling and snotty. It was one of those times when the more you try to calm down, the more you hyperventilate.
The cry was a long time coming. My car has been stolen for more than a month. It was recovered 17 days ago. And I still have not heard the first thing from my insurance company.
I have no more idea what's going on now than I did the morning the Honda was stolen.
My insurance company has not returned my phone calls. In fact, I haven't received a single call from them since the theft. My claims adjuster has been switched three times -- I don't even know who it is anymore. When I've called, I've been berated by condescending employees and even hung up on.
I still don't know if the company is going to fix the Honda or total it. The insurance company still hasn't looked at the vehicle to decide. But, one claims adjuster promised, "We'll give you the scoop as soon as we know."
Every night all of these thoughts weigh on me and become thick like soup in my head. My face gets hot. My eyes tear up. I can't rest with the weight of all this stress. And over and over, I think:
My money for my rental car is about to run out. I have not yet received a check to purchase another vehicle. Soon I'm going to be stuck with nothing.
I ended up getting out of bed Saturday night. I cried a little more into my jasmine tea and squeezed my cat until I thought his eyes would pop out. I finally fell asleep on the floor while watching "The Simpsons" on DVD.
As much as I hate car thieves, I think I hate my insurance company more. And if I hate you, I'm buying you coverage for Christmas.
The Unpuntable November 18, 5:13 p.m. To be clear, I am an animal lover. In many cases, I enjoy pets more than people. I've adopted enough stray animals over my lifetime to rival Noah's ark. I am a member of PETA. AND I WOULD NEVER, EVER ABUSE AN ANIMAL IN ANY WAY.
That said, you know those little dogs? The ones who wear glittery shirts that say "Trust Fund Puppy," and pink rhinestone collars?
Well, I like to refer to them as punters, because they're the approximate size and shape of a football. With a tail.
Last night at Village Fest, my boyfriend and I amused ourselves by guessing how far we could punt each compact canine that passed by.
Shih Tzu: "Forty yards."
Malte-Poo puppy: "Fifty yards."
Toy Chihuahua: "Field goal!"
And then I nearly walked right into the side of a Great Dane, which was about the general size of a 1984 Buick LeSabre.
"Wow!" I said. "That dog could punt me!"
And then the full-sized Fido lunged at me like he wanted to.
I imagine it was my punishment for mocking his vertically-challenged friends.
Honoring Heroes -- And Dad November 11, 5:19 p.m. In honor of Veterans' Day, I called up my dear ol' dad, who spent 43 years in the United States Air Force. He is now retired and lives near Dayton, Ohio.
The following is a transcript of our conversation.
ME: Happy Veterans' Day! How do you feel? DAD: Tired. Old.
ME: Can you still fit into your uniform? DAD: I would doubt it.
ME: Do you feel more veteran-y today? DAD: No. I was proud to be a veteran today, but I didn't do anything. I just kind of walked around and thought about it, though. And I raked some leaves. Hope my back holds out long enough to rake some more tomorrow.
ME: Did you go to a parade? DAD: I'm not sure there was a parade here. There was something or other nearby, but the ceremony was about the time mom was getting her hair done, so I didn't go.
ME: Did you get any Veterans' Day presents? DAD: I don't think that's appropriate. I don't know that any veterans expects a present on Veterans' Day. I think they just want a simple thank you. If young people would realize that their freedoms came from veterans, that's all most of us want.
ME: Did you get any Veterans' Day cards? DAD: I've never seen a Veterans' Day card. I wouldn't expect anyone to send me one, and I've never looked for one. I always try to buy Purple Heart stamps though.
ME: Did you eat a Veterans' Day meal? I bet you could have gotten a discount somewhere. DAD: Lowe's and Home Depot were giving discounts today, but I don't think they serve lunch.
ME: Did you put the flag out on the porch? DAD: No, as a matter of fact, I didn't put it out today. But I do have it sitting there next to the garage, ready to go. Tell you what -- I'll do it tomorrow. Show my support after Veterans' Day.
ME: Well, I'm glad you had a good day. DAD: I did. I had a very good day. In fact, I was watching 'Mail Call' about Vietnam on the History Channel when you called. Have you seen it?
ME: Dad, I don't have cable. DAD: Well, you liberal media people wouldn't watch it anyway. You're too busy watching CNN.
Showtime at the El Pollo November 10, 4:46 p.m. I had to have the El Pollo Loco experience today, because that song, That Song, THAT SONG! was driving me nuts.
You know the one -- the song from the non-stop commercials. The words "El Pollo Loco!" are all sing-songy and catchy, like some snappy mariachi singer really wants me to try his crazy chicken.
That song has wormed its way into my brain and is on constant replay. Those three little words keep spinning me round -- right round, like a record, baby -- until my head splits open and "EL POLLO LOCO!" spills out.
Today my boyfriend and I ate lunch there, hoping it would make the song go away. Instead, it's only made things worse.
My boyfriend and I haven't talked since then. We just "El! Pollo! Loco!" each other.
There were a few others, though, that really tore at my heart.
* Carole Nolan of Desert Hot Springs wrote to tell me about her purse, which was stolen in February, and the one thing inside that couldn't be replaced.
"I've been carrying with me since 1954 my brother's dogtags, who died in Korea," she said. "For some reason it always made me feel closer to him when I was a teenager. I continued carrying them all my life."
* Greg Hendel sent me a message about the trip to Africa he had saved for. He purchased a special Remington Kevlar Rifle, lightweight, caliber 375 Holland and Holland, built up to hunt in the Kalahari.
"About six months after returning, my house was burglarized and the usual stereo, electronics and my rifle were stolen," he said. "The rest of the stuff was possessions, but the rifle was special."
* Marilyn Hutchens lives in a gated community in Sky Valley. The night before her family left for the summer, they packed up a small trailer to the back of the car, ready to leave in the morning. The family awoke the next morning to find the trailer had been unhooked from the car and stolen, along with everything else they had packed for the summer.
"Here we are in our mid 60's and 70's and worked hard for what we have, and someone just helped themselves to our possessions while we slept," she said.
I sympathize with each and every one of you, and I wish I had the means to replace everything that was lost for each person who wrote me.
Edward Maher e-mailed me and said we should start a club for people violated by auto thieves.
Still no news November 04, 3:32 p.m. My car is still stolen.
The day after the theft, I thought the mystery had been solved when I heard about a local high-speed pursuit. The story had everything -- sex, speed and a driver who was wearing nothing but socks. All of which seemed entirely appropriate for my vehicle.
Plus, the car in the story was a doppelganger for my own -- a stolen 1994 white Honda Civic.
It was so fitting, one of my colleagues called me on my cell phone at home as soon as he saw the police report.
"I think we might have found your car."
"Smashed against a chain-link fence in Cathedral City. After doing 100 miles an hour through Palm Springs. And after an accident with a police cruiser. Driven by a naked man."
"That has to be mine!"
Unfortunately, it wasn't -- even though I pestered the local police with several phone calls. It was somebody else's stolen 1994 white Honda Civic.
Now I feel like I've been robbed of my car AND of a great story.
Help find my stolen car! October 27, 12:42 p.m. So last night I found out something else that happens to single people who are new to the desert.
My car was stolen. Right out of my carport. While I was sleeping.
I'm so angry right now, I'm restraining myself from simply typing a string of curse words. But you can imagine what I really want to say.
Here's the info. If you see this car, it is stolen and it's MINE, and you should call the police immediately to have it recovered.
My white Honda Civic was taken from South Palm Springs at some point between midnight and 9:30 a.m. The doors were locked and the windows were up. There's no glass in the driveway, so I assume somebody used a slimjim to open it.
It's a 1994 four-door vehicle. It has Ohio plates, DDK9110.
There are three stickers on the car:
* An Air Force base sticker on the driver's side of the front windshield. * A white sticker on the top left of the rear windshield with the letters "FRA." (Stands for Forest Ridge Association, my old neighborhood.) * A white sticker of upside-down skydivers on the back window on the driver's side of the car.
If you see this car, CALL THE POLICE.
I feel so violated. We're not talking about some parking garage or public area. This was my HOME -- and someone came to it and took something from me. Not just my car, but skydiving equipment and a brand new digital camera that was in the trunk.
So if you happen to also find a new Canon Digital Rebel XT, a white skydiving helmet, two audible altimeters, one purple visual altimeter (looks like a big watch), a black and cloud print jumpsuit, goggles, a license from the United States Parachute Association, a new Stetson cowboy hat or a really cute flowery black and white dress, those are mine too.
Also, all you Honda owners should watch out. The policeman said it's one of the most frequently stolen vehicles.
Thing is, last night as I was coming home from the excellent movie "Good Night, And Good Luck," I really felt like I was being followed. I took the back way to my place, driving around the block and taking a real convoluted path home. Still the car followed me. So I drove to downtown Palm Springs, lost the car that was following me, waited a little while and finally went back to my place, where I drove around the block twice.
Since I didn't see anybody there, I parked my car. I went inside. I checked all the locks on the doors and windows twice. I went to sleep with pepper spray by my side. I figured maybe I was just being paranoid.
I loved her in 'The Witches' October 25, 10:13 a.m. I spent part of my weekend at Resale Therapy, a thrift store on Palm Canyon, in search of a fabulous 1950s dress for my Halloween costume.
A man in line in front of me was purchasing a long, drapey, flower-print gown with large shoulder pads and clip-on chandelier earrings with enormous pearls. He was unable to find the final part of his ensemble -- size 13 pumps.
"What are you going to be for Halloween?" I asked.
"Anjelica Huston," he said.
There's something hilarious in the randomness of this costume. It would be like if I suddenly decided to dress as Robert Duvall.
How funny, how unique, how Palm Springs. I love it.
Spooktacular costumes October 21, 4:59 p.m. In my column Thusday I asked for the best and most creative Halloween costumes in the valley.
The best of the best I've received so far was one that is decidedly unprintable. (It involves a person dressed as a baby during birth. And wow -- what a photo.)
A close second is the costume idea from M.J. Gould, who wrote:
"Several years ago six of us at our Ivey Ranch Country Club joined together as a group entry at our annual Halloween parade and party. We made ghost costumes out of sheets and had our leader carry a sign announcing the group as the Sheet Family. We all had our individual first names boldly shown as: Bull, Holy, Oh, Pyla, Fulla and Dip. It didn't take long for the partygoers to put our first and last name together and much laughter ensued! We remained hidden under our sheets until we gave it all up for a glass of wine!"
That reminds me of the year my friends and I dressed as sad-sack beauty pageant contestants: Miss Hap, Miss Fortune, Miss Fit and Miss Take.
Even the drunkest Ohio University students caught on to that one.
Keep sending me your best Halloween costumes. E-mail me at email@example.com.
The new phone books are here! October 20, 4:59 p.m. In honor of the arrival of the new phone book, here are the number of residential listings that evoke the geographical names, character or weather of this area:
Palm -- 6 Spring -- 5 Desert -- 1 Hot -- 0 (Though variations include 1 Hotton, 1 Hotta and 4 Hotz.) Indio -- 1 Valley -- 3 Date -- 1 Mountain -- 3 Sun -- 3 Sand -- 3 Old -- 2 Gay -- 5 Rich -- 27 Drinkwater -- 1
My date with Pepe le Pew October 17, 11:38 a.m. Right now you should be reading my blog entry about the Samsung World Championship. My assignment was to be there Saturday morning to cover the fans, the atmosphere, the spectacle of it all.
I didn't go because, to be honest, I stank like hell.
Let me back up a little.
Friday night I went to bed early -- if a little bit foggy -- after splitting a bottle of wine with a friend.
In the middle of the night, I awoke to the sound of someone on my porch and figured someone was trying to steal my bike. I tossed on clothes and grabbed some pepper spray and snuck through the place, ready to confront the thief.
The way my condo is situated, I don't have windows that look out onto the porch, just a door. So I flipped on the porch lights, flung open the door, leapt outside and wielded the pepper spray with swift, ninja-like quickness and accuracy.
Had there been a person on the porch, I would have been fine. Unfortunately, there wasn't anybody there -- and I found myself face-to-tail with a skunk.
This skunk was so large, it looked as though he had been snacking on radioactive waste. He was the size of a Russian submarine. And he possessed the biggest, bushiest black and white tail that has ever existed in nature.
He sprayed at me.
I sprayed back.
I like to imagine that later, as I called my friends and said, "You'll never believe what just happened," he went home to the wife and said the exact same thing.
I managed to dodge most of the spray. I would like to think I did some cool, Matrix-like action where I soared through the air, but in actuality, I don't think it was quite like that.
It's likely the skunk missed most of me because I was shaking so hard. I also erupted with a loud hiss and a low primordial yalp, sounds I have never made before and will never make again.
The good news is that I was once a Girl Scout and knew from my time at Camp Whip-Poor-Will that tomatoes are handy for removing all traces of skunk smell. And since I have a fetish for tomato products, my pantry is always stocked with tomato juice, tomato soup, stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, even tomato seeds.
I also have a walk-down tub the size of an infinity pool. So I filled that sucker up with enough tomatoes to feed Sicily.
I marinated in there until the stench went from putrid to mild, about two hours. Now I know what pasta feels like.
The scent lingered enough to keep me from sleeping the rest of the night. Every time I nodded off, I would wake again to the smell of eggs and feet and the rotting garbage of Hades -- only to discover that it was just me.
I was definitely still stinky enough to throw off a professional golf game. So I napped and showered and loofahed all morning long.
Inspiration October 12, 6:51 p.m. Every once in a while you meet somebody so special and so distinctive, you carry the memory of them around forever.
I think that's the way I'll always feel about John Fleming, a 60-something man I met two weeks ago at Perris Valley Skydiving.
Fleming has made 1,937 skydives in his lifetime -- the majority of those have been since he's been blind, the victim of a genetic retinal disease.
He doesn't jump in tandem with anybody. His jumps are solo, sometimes making formations with other licensed skydivers, and using his own gear.
He wears two audible altimeters in his helmet, which signal the altitudes at which he should separate from other skydivers and deploy his parachute. He also wears two radios on the chest strap of his rig, so a person on the ground can help guide him to earth.
Why does he do it?
"I couldn't give up that feeling," he said.
I know what he's talking about. I'm a skydiver, too. I know the intoxicating sensation of absolute freedom, that moment when it's just you and sky, that stillness of hovering in a sunset or next to clouds.
But I do it with my eyes open. And still, every single time I jump, it requires an enormous supply of inner strength and courage.
I'm in awe of this man. He has more bravery, more backbone, more dedication than any other athlete I've ever met.
For this man the sky's not the limit -- even though he can't even see it.
YPs in PS October 06, 4:41 p.m. For my column today, I lamented the lack of young professional groups in this area.
Know why that's so important?
"Two-thirds of the 50 largest metropolitan areas had fewer young adults in 2000 than in 1990, according to the Census. These cities now realize that they've done little to appeal to the labor force that will shape their economic future: educated 25- to 34-year-olds." -- USA Today article, "Mid-sized cities get hip to attract young professionals"
With 53 people a day moving into the Coachella Valley, this area should get hip to those stats pretty quick. All the fancy hotels, big businesses, museums and events in the world won't mean a thing without attracting and retaining the creative class -- young, educated, culturally and ethnically diverse people. That includes artists, scientists, engineers and YOU.
Several people have already e-mailed me their thoughts on the lack of outlets for young professionals in the valley.
I want to hear more of that. Then, in the coming weeks, I'll post some of the responses here to start a little dialogue. Maybe we could put together a young professional happy hour or establish some sort of brainstorming roundtable. It's your call.
This is your chance to make this area a more vibrant place for a younger crowd. Let's take some action.
E-mail me your thoughts and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Single suckage? October 04, 3:57 p.m. Here's what a girl doesn't want to hear right after moving to Palm Springs: "Driving out here has been the best part of living here, and I am sure driving away from the desert will be even better."
That came from a reader who has lived in the Coachella Valley for two years.
She goes on to write: "I have had three dates ... all first dates. That's it. The women I have met are all married so they cannot go out on the town. What social interaction I do have is at work. SUCKS. Now if I want to date someone old enough to be my father I would be in luck. SUCKS."
So now I'm wondering is this experience unique? Or is it the norm?
What's the real story about dating in the desert? Is it hot? Or just all sweaty and stinky?
Dish up your very best -- and worst -- stories about the singles scene out here. E-mail me at email@example.com.
The Speedo guy September 29, 1:04 p.m. Driving down the street the other day with some friends, I saw a man watering his lawn. At high noon. In a tiny black Speedo swimsuit.
This was a guy who had obviously spent so much time outside, I couldn't tell where the tan ended and the dirt began. He had slathered his body in oil and was glistening like honey glazed ham. He held the hose like an appendage.
"That's sooo Palm Springs!" I blurted to my friends in the car.
And he was. Because when someone mentions this place, I can immediately picture a frighteningly tan dude in a Speedo, spewing water all over his lush lawn in the desert.
I'm wondering how my idea of "Palm Springs" compares with what others think of the place.
What do you consider to be stereotypical Palm Springs? Is it a specific type of person? A special place? Certain cuisine?
Give me something that is soooo Palm Springs at firstname.lastname@example.org
Weird to a fault September 28, 5:35 p.m. My two friends from Los Angeles visited me in Palm Springs last weekend. We spent Sunday afternoon poking around the San Andreas Fault at the Coachella Valley Preserve in Thousand Palms.
It’s pretty much the wackiest parcel of land I’ve ever experienced.
The drive out there is barren — other than an abandoned car and toilet by the side of the road. (Speaking of which, if anyone has lost a toilet recently, I found it. And I expect a reward.)
Smack in the middle of all this sand and brush are palm oases. But the palm trees aren’t like anything I’ve ever seen before. They’re tall and looming, like Georgia pine trees, and thick with the girth of old redwoods. These fan palms are draped with shaggy, old leaves that give them the appearance of a straw hut.
I expected the fault itself to look like a gigantic crack in the ground — a place rumbling with earthquake potential, just waiting to slip up and give us The Big One.
It wasn’t like that at all. The ground there is soggy and marshy, almost swamp-like. It’s sneaky almost. If we do get a seismic calamity, I fully expect that innocent little creek to shrug and say, “Not my fault.”
The most amazing part is that fish live inside the water there. Real, live fish. Like, fish that are native to the desert. That just boggles my mind. It’s like when I think too hard about the concept of eternity.