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The Desert Sun
The Desert Diaries: Maggie Downs
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.

More about Maggie


Oh yeah.
July 18, 1:12 p.m.
You could also just go to this url to find my new blog: http://tinyurl.com/2mn8hz

Sorry it's not clicky.
-- Maggie Downs

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.

Just promise you'll call me in the morning.
-- Maggie Downs

Pop Culture Princess
July 17, 10:54 a.m.
Have you guys been watching "The World Series of Pop Culture" on VH-1?

I love it. I am a fantastic couch critic, so I sit at home and watch and think about how I could sweep the floor with those teams.

On last night's rerun, for example, I did really well in every category except "The Zen of Swayze" -- which is because I've only seen "Roadhouse" and "Point Break." (Nope, never saw "Dirty Dancing.")

I would love to go on the show and compete, except I don't know two other pop culture junkies to complete my team.

So now I turn to you, Wide World of Webs. Perhaps there are two lurkers out there who can round out a team with me?

Here is what I am prepared to offer:

* Knowledge of Madonna in every incarnation.

* Nearly complete memory of every episode of "The Facts of Life," "The Nanny" and "Herman's Head."

* A catalog of lyrics from the Beastie Boys, Prince, Stacy Q and Michael Jackson.

* Complete knowledge of celebrity addiction and/or recreational drug use.

* Comprehensive mental inventory of obscure alternative bands from the 1990s and 2000s.

* Popular catchphrases from Saturday Night Live in the 1980s and early 1990s.

* TV theme songs.

* Short-lived reality shows.

I also know nearly every bit of trivia about New Kids on the Block, including birthdays, siblings and favorite foods.

Anybody out there with me?

-- Maggie Downs

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.

"Jesus told me to pee in the bushes."


-- Maggie Downs

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."


-- Maggie Downs

Friday Cubicle Playhouse
July 13, 2:04 p.m.
Our story begins when the Plastic Army raises their flag in Cicada territory.

Raising the flag

You can't mess with locusts like that.

An immediate attack was staged by members of the Cicada armed forces.

Cicada Invasion

These insects weren't going down without a fight.

Beast!

Counter-attack!

Counter-attack!

In a shocking move, the Plastic Army boiled Shakespeare.

Boiling Shakespeare

Oh, hell no.

Arm Attack

This is a cold and bloody battle.

Ruthless killers, those cicadas

Which side will win?

Die, Cicada!

Who will triumph in this epic battle between good and evil?

Sopranos

"Don't stop ... believin' ..."



-- Maggie Downs

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.

Here's our photo:

Fake prom

Aren't we sweet?

-- Maggie Downs

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."

Bravo, Gail.

-- Maggie Downs

There's still time for Squishee!
July 11, 4:17 p.m.
Squishee!

Today is free Squishee day at your local 7-11/Kwik-E-Mart.

Get it? Because today is July 7, aka 7-11.

I got the Blue Woo Hoo! Vanilla flavor ... and WOO HOO! I'm already getting super chatty and crazy from the sugar squishing through my veins.

I was trying to take a photo of the other side of the cup -- which features Homer and Spiderpig -- but instead I'm just illustrating how messy my desk is.

Marge bendy straw

It's like one of those games in Highlights For Kids magazine! See if you can find the following: Chinese fortune, York mints, New York Times clippings, plastic fork, notebook, ketchup packet.

-- Maggie Downs

Palm Springs celeb on GG
July 11, 12:40 p.m.
I'm watching "Golden Girls" this morning. (Shut up. Betty White is a comic genius.)

On this episode, the girls are having a celebrity auction.

SOPHIA: If we can bid on and take home celebrities, I'd like to get Trini Lopez.

DOROTHY: Ma, I had no idea you liked Trini Lopez.

SOPHIA: I don't. But that's the best I can do on a fixed income.
-- Maggie Downs

Wild About Harry
July 11, 10:38 a.m.
harrynekkid

I spent last night with a wizard and his magic stick.

And boy, am I tired!

But at least I'm satisfied.

The latest installment of the Harry Potter series is darker and more delicious than the previous films. It's dramatically shorter than the novel, but it gets right down to business.

I think I appreciate the movies more now, leading up to the final book. This film seemed to contain more foreshadowing, and everything felt more eerie and chilling.

But maybe I'm just more aware of it now, knowing that Harry's days could be numbered.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

But check out Diana Krall's wine list here.

Whoa. That's one extensive list. But great taste there.

Looks like she's very much a red drinker, just like me. And the only white I really like is also on her list, Caymus Conundrum.

Asking for a yoga room is a nice touch, too.


-- Maggie Downs

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:

Maggie & kitty

Do you see how much my cat loathes me taking pictures of him? There's nothing but hatred in those eyes.

-- Maggie Downs

What I have in common with something bubbly and fizzy and void of nutritional value
July 10, 10:28 a.m.
Diet Coke and I share the same birthday. It was unveiled July 29, 1982.

I'm a few years older, though.
-- Maggie Downs

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.

So who's on your list?


-- Maggie Downs

So. Hot.
July 09, 4:01 p.m.
Do you know how hot it was this weekend? It was so hot, I spent far too many hours on the couch in my bikini watching "My Super Sweet 16" on MTV.

And then, when I finished watching "Super Sweet 16: The Movie," THAT'S when I knew this had to stop. So I went out for sangria with my friend, Abby.

Miramonte

I'm ready for summer to stop now.
-- Maggie Downs

Genius food
July 09, 1:39 p.m.
Perhaps you are like me, and you did not quite understand that Tommy Bahama serves food as well as fashion.

And perhaps you never realized how delicious (albeit overpriced) that food might be.

And perhaps you didn't know the menu includes the best appetizer in the whole world.

So for you, I introduce scallop sliders:

DELICIOUS

They are like tiny burger sliders -- but with delicious scallop instead of gross ground cow. Genius!

-- Maggie Downs

All About Miracle Fruit
July 06, 4:09 p.m.
Maggie -- Now With Lemon!

Read Monday's paper to find out why I'm eating lemons!
-- Maggie Downs

Friday Mixtape: Random Quote Edition
July 06, 3:54 p.m.
I do this thing where I quote random songs completely out of context.

Case in point: The many business meetings where I suddenly exclaim in my Talking Heads voice, "This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!"

I realize this is funny to nobody but me. But I do it anyway. Hey, some people quote Byron, I quote Byrne.

So here now is a mixtape list of my most quotable songs:

Once in a Lifetime -- Talking Heads ("This is not my beautiful house!")

Comfort Eagle -- Cake ("We are building a religion! We are building it bigger!")

Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) -- Arcade Fire ("We found the light!")

I'm Sorry Now -- Jude ("I hate spaghetti and I also hate divorce.")

Daft Punk is Playing at My House -- LCD Soundsystem ("All the furniture is the garage!")

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots -- Flaming Lips ("Those evil-natured robots, they're programmed to destroy us.")

There's also a song by DJ Assault that I probably quote more than all the others, but even the title is too explicit for this blog.
-- Maggie Downs

Sunny Friday
July 06, 3:09 p.m.
Coffee

Yesterday I somehow got hooked inside a scary novel, and so I spent most of the night trying to chase away dreams of serial killers who pluck out your teeth one by one.

But then the night fell away and today happened. And there's nothing so wonderful and safe and comforting as a sunny morning with a steaming Americano, a friend and great conversation.

Thank you.

-- Maggie Downs

Indy Day Faux Pas
July 05, 11:36 a.m.
I have this T-shirt that is hilarious -- 364 days out of the year.

It's a red T-shirt with drawings of Stalin, Castro, Lenin, Marx and Mao. Most of them have party hats on and are holding beer cups. Marx has a lampshade on his head.

Because it's a Communist PARTY. Get it? Hysterical.

But not so much on the Fourth of July.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

arrowhead 068

arrowhead 106

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:

View

Other highlights:

* 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.)

Carly

* Hiking the shoreline trail that loops around the lake, and feeling incredibly happy and loved and blessed.

-- Maggie Downs

Tram Hike
July 02, 4:57 p.m.
I went for a hike Sunday morning at the Tram with a good friend of mine.

My intention was to do a quick leisurely hike during which we could catch up on each other's lives.

Her intention apparently was to beat me down and break my spirit.

After the first sweaty and wheezy hour, I asked where we were going. She mumbled something about the top of Mt. San Jacinto.

I told her, uh ... no. I did not bring nearly enough snacks for this to happen.

So we just did about 7 miles. A quick and leisurely stroll, my ass.

-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

Zig-A-Zig-Ah
June 28, 5:10 p.m.
Laugh if you want, but I will totally travel to the ends of the earth to attend the Spice Girls reunion concert. I am not even kidding.

I need to find my photos from college when my friends and I used to dress up like Spice Girls -- on purpose -- to go to the bars.

I was Ginger.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

The box office number is 323-5123.

-- Maggie Downs

Overheard at 'Ratatouille'
June 27, 2:07 p.m.
The Boyfriend and I picked up free tickets to a screening of Ratatouille in Rancho Mirage last night. Here's what we heard and saw:

A sweet-faced little girl, tugging on the pantleg of an older woman: "'Scuse me. Is this 'Ratatuille'? I don't know how to read the sign above the door."

***

Two boys and a dad, all eating Skittles.

"Hey Dad. Dad. Guess what the red ones taste like?"

"I don't know."

"Red slushie ... And you know what the green ones taste like? Green slushie ... And you know what the orange ones taste like? Orange slushie ... And hey Dad, guess what the yellow ones taste like."

"Yellow slushie?"

"No. Banana."

***

Two little boys were sitting in the seats directly in front of us. They began to play a game called Mime, in which they faced each other and each did the ol' mime-stuck-in-a-box routine.

Finally, one of the boys reached out and POW! Punched his friend right in the face.

"Ow!" said the friend. "You hit me!"

"Ha ha! You talked! I win."

-- Maggie Downs

Growing!
June 26, 3:52 p.m.
Aerogarden!

Look at all the herbs now in my Aerogarden! Remember just a few weeks ago, when they were just seeds?

Ah, good times.

It is seriously the coolest piece of technology I've ever owned.

Read all about it in Wednesday's food section.
-- Maggie Downs

The Diva Prescription
June 26, 3:16 p.m.
Flower

Man, I've been a crab-ass lately.

People always told me that the second summer is far worse than your first.

Your first time around, you've braced yourself. "Hmmm, this is hot," you think. "But I can handle it. It's just different, that's all."

But your second summer, you're sweaty and angry and sometimes your skin feels like the sun is maniacally laughing while poking you all over with a red-hot fork.

I am so, so grouchy. I can't seem to cool off. The other day I even opened the freezer at the grocery store and stood there for a very long time -- and I wasn't even there to buy anything.

I just about flipped out the other day when I had to stand around naked, waiting for the water in the shower to COOL OFF before I could get in there. How messed up is that?

(Aside: The only good thing about hot water in the pipes is that I can make French press coffee straight from the tap. And I am 100 percent serious.)

So this is the kind of mood I was in when I had my opera lesson today. My teacher asked how I've been doing, and I snapped back something about being hot and irritable and annoyed at the world.

She promised I would feel better after singing.

The first half-hour was excrutiating. I was hunched over, my chest caving in, my voice crackling.

"Just keep at it," she said. "Let's get you unstuck."

We ended up doing a series of voice exercises. Then, instead of working on the difficult Italian or German pieces, she told me to sing something fun.

I belted out a few tunes from "Annie Get Your Gun" ... and then I ended up smiling, and then laughing, and then dancing around the room while I sang.

And sure enough, I felt happier by the end of the lesson.

I hate it when the diva is right.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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

(Sorry. I'm not a fan of the Stray Cat Strut.)
-- Maggie Downs

Puppy Love
June 22, 3:09 p.m.
Awww.

If this picture makes you go "Awwwww ..." the Animal Samaritans pet expo is the event for you!

The event is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hotel Zoso, 150 S. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs.

Bring your pet, on a leash of course, and check out more than 15 vendors of goodies for you and your pooch. Meet animal experts from the SCPA, the police K-9 unit, and a pet grief expert.

There will even be contests and all kinds of cool demonstrations from noon to 2 p.m.

PLUS, food from Deezer Dogs. And best of all, admission is 100 percent totally free.

This event will make you fun and attractive. Check it out.

(Photo from cloneofsnake on Flickr.)
-- Maggie Downs

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?
-- Maggie Downs

Sometimes I Scare People
June 19, 5:06 p.m.
You Know What They Say

The Boyfriend and I were sitting on the couch. I had a large cushion resting in my lap, and my cat was splayed across it, dozing peacefully as we softly petted him.

"You know what I'm thinking?" The Boyfriend said. "We have the cutest cat in the whole wide world."

"You know what I'm thinking?" I said. "I wonder what he would look like without any skin."

The Boyfriend looked at me blankly.

"I've said that before, haven't I?"

He nodded his head yes.

-- Maggie Downs

Not Seeing the Forest
June 19, 1:36 p.m.
Hiking group

This morning I was talking to my sister on the phone about my morning hikes.

"... and I need to remember that it feels about 10 degrees hotter on the trail than it does walking around my neighborhood," I said.

"But with the trees it's not so bad," she said.

"Trees?"

"Yeah. You know, trees. Shade."

"We don't have trees by the trails," I said. "Not unless you're in the mountains."

"You don't have TREES?"

"Where exactly do you think I moved?"


-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

Cooling Off Under the Dessert Sky
June 18, 2:03 p.m.
Whee!

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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

-- Maggie Downs

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.

XOXO,

Maggie

-- Maggie Downs

Lady in Red
June 14, 4:05 p.m.
Cool photo of me taken by the lovely and talented Tanya McRae of KMIR-6:

Maggie

My only criticism is that I should have been wearing lipstick.
-- Maggie Downs

Sad Egg
June 13, 3:24 p.m.
I have many flaws. But one of the worst is that I am completely incapable of peeling a hard-boiled egg.

Exhibit A:

Bad Egg

Exhibit B:

Sad Egg

The sad thing is, I really try. And I CANNOT peel an egg.

I've tried all sorts of tricks too: Peeling it under water, cracking it all over, rolling it.

I've tried cooking them in all different methods: salting the water, boiling for 5 minutes on heat, simmering in boiling water off the heat, baking them.

I've tried using fresh eggs, and I've tried aging the eggs. I've used the cheap eggs from Trader Joe's, and I've used expensive free-range Omega-3 fancy eggs made of gold.

And yet, no dice. It almost looks like I peeled this with someone else's hands. I could have blindfolded a bear, and he would have done a better job of peeling my egg.

You should see when I make deviled eggs. It looks like Satan's dog mauled the eggs before spitting them back out on a platter.

I'm open to suggestions. Anyone? Anything?

P.S. How cute is my little lunch wrap with the skulls? It's a cool and environmentally-friendly way to pack sandwiches -- and all sorts of other stuff -- for lunch.

Find it here: http://wrapnmat.com

-- Maggie Downs

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.

At least I look really good in that tank top.

-- Maggie Downs

All Birds (No Bees)
June 12, 3:13 p.m.
This morning while I was hiking, I'm pretty sure I saw two hummingbirds having sex.

It was over kind of quickly, but I imagine that's how it is for hummingbirds.

Poor birds.
-- Maggie Downs

We Get Phone Calls!
June 11, 12:54 p.m.
Love this voicemail I got this morning:

"I found your story insulting, and apparently you're stupid." (click)

Well said!
-- Maggie Downs

The ULTIMATE Slumber Party
June 06, 10:52 a.m.
As much as we love the boys, this here is a girls-only post.

OK, ladies.

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.
-- Maggie Downs

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.

Swans

I guess the lesson here is the next time someone calls you a hussy, just say that you learned it from the swans.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

"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 ..."

-- Maggie Downs

I Feel the Earth Move
June 01, 9:56 p.m.
Wow!

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?
-- Maggie Downs

The Sangria That Wasn't
June 01, 05:53 a.m.
My friends and I went to Miramonte in Indian Wells last night for the opening night of Tapas Thursday.

Their advertisement boasted $5 sangria and $6 tapas.

Sadly, they ran out of sangria. Twice, said the manager.

And we waited for a good 20 minutes without service, so we had no tapas either.

Tapas Thursday didn't work out so well.

-- Maggie Downs

Women in Art
May 31, 3:53 p.m.
Because I know there are so many lovely artists -- and art lovers! -- in this area, check out this beautiful video.

It shows 500 years of female portraits in Western art.


-- Maggie Downs

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. "

He was obviously confused in the '80s.

-- Maggie Downs

Happy Memorial Day!
May 29, 1:01 p.m.
What better way to usher in the summer than fun, friends, BBQ, sunshine, adorable kids and a cool pool?

Goggles

Hope everyone else had a great weekend also.

-- Maggie Downs

Big Brother
May 25, 4:54 p.m.
It's my big brother's birthday!

Me and my bruddah

The thing I love about him is that he will always be older than I am.

That, and he brought four incredible women into our family.

Happy day.

-- Maggie Downs

Plantman Knows Where the Plants Will Grow
May 25, 1:46 p.m.
Wondering how I've been spending my time lately?

I've been watching plants grow.

No, really.

It's kind of like watching water boil, only a LOT more boring.

Aerogrow

The Boyfriend and I ordered an Aerogrow Garden for our kitchen, and we're probably the only people in the world who are legitimately using it for basil and not for weed.

Yesterday we filled it with water and inserted the nutrient capsules and programmed the lights. And then we inserted the seed pods.

I'm actually a little disappointed the seed pods didn't suddenly sprout and go "bwooop!" and become full-grown plants before my very eyes.

"Well, they're not radiation seeds," The Boyfriend said. "They still have to GROW, you know. This just hastens the process."

But I just keep standing there and waiting and watching. I know that something has to happen at some point.

I think I watch too many cartoons.

-- Maggie Downs

100 Proof food
May 23, 3:42 p.m.
My Drink of the Week column today focused on the new vino that's being offered at the Tulip Hill Winery tasting room at the River in Rancho Mirage.

But here's what I didn't have enough space to tell you about in that story -- Tulip Hill is also selling the most incredible smoked salmon:

Yum

It comes from a place called 100 Proof Smokehouse in Temecula, where all the fish is smoked with some sort of alcohol. Here's the list of flavors:

* Cabernet Chipotle
* Apricot Brandy
* Maple Rum
* Tangerine Sake
* Vodka Citrus

(I put those in the order I liked them, by the way. The cab chipotle is fabulous.)

They're also selling smoked cream cheese, which is absolutely worth picking up for your next party. It tasted great, even by itself on a cracker.
-- Maggie Downs

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.
-- Maggie Downs

The Bimbo truck
May 17, 1:05 p.m.
Yes, it's probably not a good practice to take photos while driving.

And yes, I know this is the name of Mexican bakery company.

I know that stuff.

But I still can't help myself from taking a photo when something makes me giggle like a 12-year-old boy.

Bimbo truck
-- Maggie Downs

Sweep the Leg
May 16, 3:25 p.m.
I'm interviewing Pete Mitchell from No More Kings tomorrow.

You might have seen the band's video for "Sweep the Leg," which has already become a You Tube sensation.

And if you haven't, well, here it is:



Hilarious.

The band is playing May 25 at Pappy & Harriet's in Pioneertown. And for more info, look for my story at some point next week ...

-- Maggie Downs

Oh, ogre!
May 15, 2:00 p.m.
Guess which movie I'm excited to see this weekend?

I'll give you two hints.

Shrek

jamiemaggievisit 020

-- Maggie Downs

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.

That's no way to die.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Two to Spare
May 14, 5:12 p.m.
Rolling

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.

"A cherry?"

"Nope."

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

JHOP
May 11, 1:36 p.m.
Maybe I've never noticed it before, or maybe it's something new ...

Yesterday when I was driving home from Joshua Tree, I noticed a sign advertising the "JHOP."

Jesus's House of Prayer.

I love a church with a sense of humor. And a side of bacon.

-- Maggie Downs

Slick Behind the Wheel
May 11, 11:14 a.m.
Long story short -- a bottle of massage oil spilled in my car.

By the time I figured this out, my hands were almost too slippery to drive. Every time I turned a corner, the steering wheel went WHOOSH ...
-- Maggie Downs

They did it My Way
May 10, 12:03 p.m.
New & Old

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."

Pool house

-- Maggie Downs

Half a Benjamin
May 09, 5:11 p.m.
The summer tram pass is here!

Just $5o for the whole summer -- a real deal considering that one ride is usually $21.95.

When it's all sweltering and sweaty down here, and you can't afford to crank up the air conditioning any more, a trip up the tram is the most effective way to cool off.

It's the only way the boyfriend and I survived our first summer here.

Plus, it's true wilderness up there. Like, if you and your hiking partner get lost, you might have to eat him.

All that AND hiking and camping and trees and picnics and German tourists.

Stream

On the tram
-- Maggie Downs

Parker Love
May 09, 2:02 p.m.
parker 005

The Boyfriend and I attended the PS Tuesday event at the Parker Palm Springs last night.

PS Tuesdays is a fun social group and all, but really the draw for me was the venue.

I could write symphonies about the Parker. I could bake a cake in the shape of the Parker. I could easily let the Parker spank me and call me daddy.

I even wrote them a haiku:

The Parker Palm Springs,
Fancy, fun and eclectic.
Please let me move in.


No, seriously. I wouldn't take up much room. I could sit right here and be happy:

White chair

-- Maggie Downs

What the World Needs Now
May 09, 08:42 a.m.
You know what the people of Palm Springs could use? Parking classes.

It doesn't matter where I go -- either I have a space THISBIG in which to squeeze my booty out the door, or I have enough space to navigate a Russian submarine.

There is no in between.

-- Maggie Downs

Neko Case
May 08, 12:53 p.m.
She rocked the house at Stagecoach to just a few dozen people, since George Strait bogarted most of the crowd.

Lucky us!

She and her band cracked jokes about the situtation.

"You guys in the mosh pit are doing a great job," Case said to the few fans, who were mostly lounging on lawn chairs and blankets.

Still, it was a great show. Case's haunting voice is a pure and perfect match for a chilly desert night.

IMG_5531

Neko

IMG_5665


-- Maggie Downs

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 maggie.downs@thedesertsun.com. (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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.
GROWL!

Yikes! The fans have begun to clone themselves.
Seeing Double

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.)
Shirtless


-- Maggie Downs

We Get Letters
May 07, 10:49 a.m.
In today's inbox:

"I love your toes and would klike to see more of yur toes and feet . do you have oppen toed shoes and sandles I could see you modle? I really enjoyed your feet ! I would love to hear from you."


-- Maggie Downs

Sand Gets in Your Eye
May 04, 12:16 p.m.
#$&*ing wind. It feels like I have kitty litter under my contacts.

-- Maggie Downs

The Pick-Up Artist
May 02, 2:37 p.m.
A blonde, floppy-haired guy walked up to me when I was taking a picture of this tree:

Metal tree

GUY: Sorry I'm late.

MAGGIE: ???

GUY: You said to meet here, right?

MAGGIE: ...???

GUY: We were supposed to meet by the tree. To make out. Remember?

MAGGIE: Ha. No.

GUY: Wait. That wasn't you?

-- Maggie Downs

Talk Nerdy to Me
May 02, 2:34 p.m.
IMG_7792

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?

GUY 2: (snort)

-- Maggie Downs

H-to-tha-2O
April 27, 11:14 a.m.
Only two more hours until I drive over to Coachella, and I've already started getting my drink on.

Water, that is.

I started my hydration plan two days ago, which involves a rotation of plain water, Emergen-C, diluted cranberry juice and young Thai coconut water.

Hey, it's hot out there, and this is the biggest event of my year. I'm not taking any chances.

Now, excuse me -- I have more water to drink. Go check out the Coachella Blog for regular updates on the festivities.

-- Maggie Downs

Set Times
April 24, 10:43 a.m.
The Coachella set times have been announced!

This event always makes me ponder the important questions in life:

Should I go see a solid band that I've seen a couple times before (Interpol) or use this opportunity to check out a band I like but have never seen (Brazilian Girls)?

Who will win in the battle of Ratatat vs. Happy Mondays vs. Teddybears?

Why, oh why, is Andrew Bird playing at the same time as the Decemberists?

When will I have time to eat?

Also, it's official: I will not be using the bathroom on Saturday. There's no time.


-- Maggie Downs

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?)"


-- Maggie Downs

Speaking of pets ...
April 19, 3:38 p.m.
There are two pet-related activities coming up in honor of Earth Day.

1. The Rites of Spring Pet Blessing will be at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 21 in Doggie Park, next to City Hall on Civic Center Drive, Palm Springs.

If you plan to attend, they need the name of your pet for a special certificate. E-mail your info ASAP to godanco@earthlink.net

A $10 donation for the Critter Coalition is requested.

2. "Save a Planet, Save a Pet" will be from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at Native Foods 1175 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs.

Find out how to help the environment and learn about pet adoption during this humane event!

-- Maggie Downs

Why My Cat Hates Life
April 19, 1:04 p.m.
Unhoppy

First I put bunny ears on the cat. Then I did some ballroom dancing with the cat. Then I played a game called, "Hop Over the Cat While He Tries to Nap."

MAGGIE: Do you think the cat thinks I'm Satan?

BOYFRIEND: Oh no. He knows you are.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

Hearst Castle

Finding pocketfuls of jade in beach coves. Exploring tide pools. Writing messages in the sand. Walking together next to the ocean.

Tiny People

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.

bigsur 067

Camping out. A smoky campsite fire. Waking up under the redwoods.

Redwoods

Hiking along the coast. Stumbling upon the quirky Henry Miller Library. Breakfast at Deetjen's.

Deetjen's

Making the 17-mile drive around Pebble Beach.

Pebble Beach

More beauty than I could handle.

Blue

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?"

Maggie!

(Hint: I'm waving.)

-- Maggie Downs

RIP
April 17, 4:44 p.m.
bigsur 017

At some point during my road trip -- while I was carefully shielding myself from TV and news and the Don Imus thing -- Kurt Vonnegut died.

He will be missed.

"I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center."

-- Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Feet

-- Maggie Downs

SHHHH!!!
April 17, 4:09 p.m.
Little tent.

Picture this: We're in the middle of a dark redwood forest in Big Sur.

There are signs all over the place that say, "Please respect the quiet of the redwoods."

We've even been handed a pamplet about the campsite that stresses "quiet hours," which run from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The boyfriend is at the fire ring, trying with little success to make our wood become more flame than smoke.

We end up burning the Sunday New York Times; when that's gone, we start tearing up the AAA travel guide. (But only the parts where we've already been.)

While he's still messing with the fire, I'm drinking cheap shiraz, straight from the bottle, and dancing wildly in the inky darkness under the big trees.

I feel like a magical wood nymph, a fairy of the forest, a goddess floating through the night ...

Until I stumble into the car and set off the alarm.

The horn blasts. Lights flash. And I can't seem to find the keys to make it stop.


-- Maggie Downs

My Gang
April 17, 12:10 p.m.
I'm back!

And I have some new marine friends.

Happy seal:

Happy Seal

Sleepy seal:

Sleepy

Kissing seals:

Kissing

And screaming gangster seal:

RAWAR!


-- Maggie Downs

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!


-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Pretty Music in My Ear
April 04, 11:14 p.m.
Today I watched this Teddybears video over and over in preparation for Coachella. I'm so excited, I'm about to jump out of my pants.



Because I'm a punk rocker. Yes I am.

-- Maggie Downs

Maggie Cartoon
April 04, 12:23 p.m.
Here I am as a tiny, foul-mouthed South Park character:

Maggie

Looks like I'm about to go seduce Chef.

-- Maggie Downs

Vicious Cycle
April 03, 12:45 p.m.
On Saturday morning I went to the Indio Grand Prix to cheer on my sweet friend, Zach.

I think he was racing in the elite 4 crit, but heck, I don't really know what I'm talking about. I'm still new to all the racing terms.

Here's Zach:
Riding

Here's Zach with some of his groupies:
Friends

And here's Zach, showing off his mad pedal skills:
Sprinting

-- Maggie Downs

Upcoming Trip
April 02, 3:54 p.m.
Here's the boyfriend, hiking in the middle of nowhere.

Jason

We're spending next week on a road trip together, and I'm a little worried. We haven't spent that many hours together ... oh, ever.

Luckily, my friend Laura gave me the best bon voyage/road trip present ever: a Starbucks card and tiny bottles of Baileys Irish Cream.

It reminds me of my friend Shannon, who used to be a social worker. Before work, she used to add a little bit of whiskey to her morning coffee, just to take the edge off.

At least I haven't graduated to the hard stuff. That bodes well for the relationship.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

Here are some pics from the pool party:

Moment

Girls

By the pool.

Resort

Girls
-- Maggie Downs

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:

Exhausted


-- Maggie Downs

Tempted By the Fruit of Another
March 30, 2:41 p.m.
Girl, times two

Smooch!

Hot stuff

Ah, Dinah Shore -- the only time of year I really regret having a boyfriend.

-- Maggie Downs

Don't Poke the Bear
March 29, 4:29 p.m.
How to Annoy Me in 5 Easy Steps:

1. Leave a message on my voicemail saying that I didn't include a phone number for Power of Fitness in my article about Power of Fitness. Especially when I did, in fact, include the phone number.

2. When I return your call, continue to insist that the phone number wasn't included in the story. Even when I'm looking at the phone number printed on actual newsprint and everything.

3. Say, "Well, it would have been a really good article -- if only you had included the phone number."

4. Argue with me some more.

5. Say, "Actually, could you call me back tomorrow? I'm in Wal-Mart."


-- Maggie Downs

Nowinoma
March 28, 7:52 p.m.
I'm watching "American Idol," and the loser is singing "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic."

Aside: I secretly sing that as "Every Little Thing She Does is Maggie." But ... whatever. That's not the point of this story.

That song always reminds me of this guy I once dated -- especially the line, "Now I know my love for her goes on."

One day this guy I was dating leaned in for a kiss and said, "Nowinoma, I adore you."

"What did you call me?"

"Nowinoma," he said, taking on the same tone he would use with a 5-year-old child. "Duh. It's a term of affection."

"That's not a word."

"Yeah huh."

"Nuh uh."

"If it's not a word, then why do the Police use it in their song?" he said.

"What song?"

"You know," he said. "When they say, 'Nowinoma love for her goes on.'"

-- Maggie Downs

April Affirmations
March 28, 08:22 a.m.
Local life coach Leslie Gebhart is doing something really cool throughout the month of April. Here's what I just received in an email from her:

* Do you already know you'd like to exercise more or differently?

* Are you ready to make fresh choices about what goes into your grocery cart?

* Is it time to discontinue smoking toxins into your body?

* Would you benefit from an accountability partner as you increase your emphasis on your optimal health and vitality?

Details:

This telephone coaching group focuses on your choices, decisions and how to make change with ease.

Thr group meets via phone every Wednesday in April 5:15-6:30 p.m. PST -- for a one-time fee of $100.

Phone* from the comfort of your location & you'll find support, community & vibrations of 'YES.'

Using science and clarity about the law of attraction, you'll create a plan to make change with ease, grace and delight.

To add your name to the class list, please call 760.218.8865.

Feel free to invite a friend or relative from any area code.

*special class telephone number provided upon receipt of fee payable to Leslie Gebhart & mailed c/o PO Box 600 Palm Springs, CA 92263. Please include your contact info.

*Long distance charges may apply.

Who is Life Coach Leslie Gebhart? Visit www.lesliegebhart.com or www.lifestylecatalysts.com. Your questions are welcomed.

-- Maggie Downs

Road to Nowhere
March 26, 4:43 p.m.
"And you may ask yourself, where does that highway go?"

On the road

The Boyfriend and I made a road trip this weekend for a story I'm working on.

Right around this spot (photo, above) I turned to the Boyfriend and said, "You know, if the car breaks down, I'm going to have to eat you."

Ah, love.

(Also, did anyone else catch the TWO Talking Heads references I made in this entry? Then pat yourself on the back for your musical geekery. Huzzah!)
-- Maggie Downs

Most brides have 'em
March 22, 2:45 p.m.
I called some printing companies today to get some estimates on wedding invites and such.

One of the printers said, "You want STD cards?"

"I'm sorry. What?"

"STD cards."

"Um, no. I don't think we'll be needing any of those."

"OK. It's no problem. But most brides have STDs. I just thought you might want them."

"Wow. Huh. No thank you."

Only later did I make the connection.

STD. Save the date.

-- Maggie Downs

Big desert sky
March 22, 2:36 p.m.
Big sky

What a great afternoon.

An overcast day always makes me feel like I'm looking at the desert through a kaleidoscope. Everything has more depth and appears more colorful. Then it shifts and changes.

-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

Things you don't see every day that I saw today
March 20, 2:23 p.m.
1. A "Merle Haggard for President" bumper sticker.

2. A person who cut me off in traffic and screamed at me -- all with a license plate that said "Friendly Manitoba."

3. A woman walking around my neighborhood, pushing her cat in a stroller.

4. A guy remove his teeth before leaning over to kiss a woman.


-- Maggie Downs

Oneness
March 19, 4:06 p.m.
Petal

I had my first deeksha yesterday.

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Go Girl!
March 15, 2:47 p.m.
The coolest thing about girlfriends is that they can accomplish some pretty amazing things.

Case in point, the Girlfriend Factor.

You might have heard me talk about this local charity before. They're the non-profit organization that I raised money for during the Dancing With Our Stars event.

The Girlfriend Factor is dedicated to helping other women achieve their goals through support and education.

Now, they're giving out the first of their Go Girl! grants. These will be presented to women in difficult situations who want to continue their education.

Please attend the luncheon and support the extraordinary things that women can do.

The Go Girl! lunch will be at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 22 at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Palm Desert.

Cost is $30, which is payable at the door.

RSVP at 772-9594.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

Luckily, I come home to this:

Lap cat


-- Maggie Downs

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.

Who AM I?

A person without an off switch, that's who.


-- Maggie Downs

Artiste!
March 09, 3:55 p.m.
Last night the boyfriend and I went to Village Fest in Palm Springs. We're art lovers, and we walked slowly from stand to stand, talking with some of the vendors.

Then I stopped to check out some interesting pieces. The artist did really colorful multimedia work with some collage elements outlined in thick globs of paint.

I wondered if the guy added something to the paint to give it such a dense texture. So the boyfriend started to ask the guy for me.

"Do you --"

"Sir, I am an artist, not a teacher," the man said, interrupting my boyfriend.

"Um, OK. I --"

"Why would I tell you my secrets? I am an artist. Actually, an artiste! A very successful one, too," the man continued.

"OK."

"Let me tell you something about art," the man said. His long scarf swung back and forth as he shook his finger in our faces. "I KNOW about art."

"Art is all about selling things. You don't have to be the best painter in the world, you just have to know how to sell it," he said.

He began to shout: "Picasso! Salvador Dali! They were NOT great painters! They were just good salespeople!"

"Well, you're not really good at that either," the boyfriend muttered as we walked away.


-- Maggie Downs

The Things People Say
March 09, 12:09 p.m.
A guy from one of the local stargazing clubs had his very large and impressive telescope set up on Palm Canyon Drive last night.

My boyfriend, who wants to be an amateur astronomer, was chatting up the man.

Meanwhile, I just shook my head at the silly things people say to a guy with a big telescope.

"My goodness! Did you make that?" said one lady, while pointing at the telescope.

A man holding hands with that lady said: "Hey, I know a young girl who showers right over there. Can you see her with this thing?"

And then a teenager walked up, pressed his eye against the telescope and said, "Huh. I can't see Saturn. All I see is some dot with rings."

-- Maggie Downs

Today while driving from Palm Desert to Palm Springs on Highway 111, I realized ...
March 08, 2:03 p.m.
I flip the bird far too often.


-- Maggie Downs

I Bee Buzzing
March 07, 4:43 p.m.
While I was getting my caffeine buzz on at Koffi this afternoon, look what else I found buzzing around:

Bee
-- Maggie Downs

Good Things
March 07, 11:17 a.m.
Candles

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.

4. My newest orchid bloomed yesterday.

Orchid

Pretty, huh?

-- Maggie Downs

On Location: Julian
March 06, 4:22 p.m.
julian 024

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.

Sunset

-- Maggie Downs

The Office
March 06, 11:12 a.m.
I just read a statistic that the average desk worker has 36 hours worth of work on their desk -- and wastes up to three hours a week just looking for stuff.

Um, yeah.

Messy office

Someday I'll ask you guys for tips on keeping an office space tidy. But right now I don't think I could handle getting any more stuff.

-- Maggie Downs

Hike For Hope
March 05, 3:44 p.m.
Sunday was Hike for Hope at Indian Canyons -- the annual event raises money for City of Hope, a Southern California comprehensive cancer facility.

Wildflowers

It was a great day.

I was never really into hiking until I moved to the desert and found how restorative it can be for the body, mind and soul.

So I think it's appropriate that this positive, fun event -- which does so much good for women's cancer research -- is based around hiking.

Hikers

After I completed my hike to Murray Canyon, I signed the memorial board and dedicated my hike to my best friend's mother.

She would have liked that, I think. She was a beautiful person and loved beautiful things.

Spring

So thank you, Eileen Stern, for creating the Hike for Hope. And thank you to the dedicated volunteers who worked hard all year long for this event.

You put together something really wonderful and special.


-- Maggie Downs

Reading Rainbow
March 05, 3:07 p.m.
I particpated in Read Across America on Friday by reading to third-graders at Carrillo Ranch Elementary School in Indio.

I read "Madeline" by Ludwig Bemelmans for the class, because the story was one of my favorites when I was a kid.

As I was reading, one cute little guy in an AC/DC sweatshirt stopped me.

"This book is all rhymey," he said. He paused, then said, "I like that."

When the teacher pointed out to the children that Madeline lives in an orphanage, one little girl raised her hand.

"Ooh, just like 'Nacho Libre!'" the girl said.

Afterward, one little girl in pigtails walked up to me.

"I love your handbag," she said.

"You have fabulous taste," I replied.

I love kids.

-- Maggie Downs

Love & Hate
March 03, 08:45 a.m.
We were in the just-after-midnight, slap-happy phase.

I used a Sharpie to write "LOVE" across the knuckles of my left hand, "HATE" across the knuckles of my right.

"See me? I'm a biker chick," I said while throwing punches at the boyfriend.

"Yeah, yeah."

I held his hand in my left one and stroked it gently with my fingers.

"This is the love hand. It loves you."

"Aw."

"And this is the hate hand!" I said, using all my claws to stab at his palm.

"OW!"

"Love," I said, again using the left hand to gently paw at him.

"And hate!" I said, poking him, then using both my hands to pry at his fingernails. "Hate! Hate! Hate!"

"Hey, I have a question," he said. "How come love works alone, but you need both hands for hate?"

"Um ... Sometimes love gets confused."

-- Maggie Downs

Flight home
March 02, 12:47 p.m.
Clouds

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.

But I made it.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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:

Beach

Beach

Followed by some perfect seafood:

Salad

And a pirate party:

Arrr!

Q. How much did the pirate pay for corn?

A. Bucaneer!

Pirates

And then we went to Key Largo:

Boats

With a friend who is the most adorable of all the fishermen in the ocean:

Breezy

We pulled up some crab traps:

Slime

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:

Bait

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.)

Feast

And the next day I flew home.

The end.

-- Maggie Downs

E-Maul
February 27, 5:59 p.m.
I'm not responding to the friend who dumped me. At least, not directly to his inbox.

I did, however, write him a message that I will post here.

I don't know if he reads this blog or not. But I just had to get these feelings out of my system and write them down.

So, this is the end of the saga. My message is out there if he wants to find it. And if not, he won't.

*********************

Dear Friend,

I won't even pretend to know what kind of personal issues you're dealing with right now, though I have a few guesses.

I admit, I'm a little sad to be losing you as a friend. You made me laugh, and you cheered me up, and you were an interesting person. You were a valuable part of my life for a while.

But more than anything, I'm really disappointed.

Not in your decision to end our friendship so coldly and abruptly, though.

I'm disappointed in myself.

I really thought I was a better judge of character.

I pegged you as a loyal, kind and genuinely caring person. And I was wrong.

I won't tell you to go to hell, even though that was my very first instinct when I received your email.

The feeling that is creeping up now is much sadder, much colder: Apathy.

Someday, not too far in the future, it'll be like that Dandy Warhols song -- "A long time ago, we used to be friends. But I haven't thought of you lately at all."

Maggie

-- Maggie Downs

Leavin' On a Jet Plane
February 20, 10:44 p.m.
Bye bye, Palm Springs.

Landscape

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 ...

Jamie approves

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) ...

Can't ... eat ... any ... more

And sadly, we failed ...

Failure

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Grumpy Old Man
February 20, 11:19 a.m.
Probably my favorite response so far has come from my dad, who called me last night to complain about the cold Ohio weather.

I explained the situation to him and asked what I should do.

"Oh, who cares?" he said. "You have other friends. I only care about this guy if he's going to shovel my driveway. Did I mention it's 2 degrees outside?"

Uh, thanks, Mr. Grouchy McNohelp.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

Maybe tomorrow.

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.

-- Maggie Downs

WOW
February 19, 3:09 p.m.
I've had interviews all morning and just got into the office. It's my first time checking e-mails since my column ran on Sunday ... and wow. Just wow.

All in all, hundreds of people responded to my query, "Can men and women be friends?"

Out of those, most folks gave me some really great insight as to how I should respond to the male who said we can no longer be friends because he is a married man and I'm an engaged woman.

I need to filter through all these, and I'll be back in a little while to post some of the responses.

-- Maggie Downs

'Tis Better to Give
February 15, 10:49 a.m.
Beyond the ring, the boyfriend also got me a few other things for Valentine's Day.

First, he made this adorable card with a little story, which was supposed to reveal my present.

However, part of the story said something about a Taser -- and so I was reading it and thought, "He got me a Taser for Valentine's Day? AWESOME."

But as I read on, I discovered that my gift was a year-long subscription to the New York Times. And because I am a gigantic nerd, nothing could make me happier.

Also, I received a sheet of temporary tattoos. (He really does know me well!)

Meanwhile, I did not follow standard Valentine's operating procedure -- I got him nothing. Zip. Nada. Not even a card.

In my defense, we said we weren't going to do anything but go out for dinner.

So here's the score:

Boyfriend 1
Maggie 0

Oops.

I tried to play it off like, "But isn't my hand in marriage the best gift of all?"

When that didn't work, I tried another tactic. "Well, I shaved my legs. There's a present for you."

That didn't work either.

So I think I might end up making an album of some of our favorite loverly photos and give it to him as a late present.

Rental car

Hugging

maggie2

"He loved her for almost everything she was & she decided that was enough to let him stay for a very long time." -Brian Andreas

-- Maggie Downs

Blingity bling
February 15, 09:45 a.m.
OK, one more photo of my ring, this time in the sunlight:

Ring


-- Maggie Downs

And once more
February 14, 8:34 p.m.
Another angle of my perfect ring:

Engagement ring

I keep taking sideways glances of it in any possibly reflective surface. And I'm like, "What, P. Diddy? Of course you envy my bling. It's all mine. Too bad, so sad."

-- Maggie Downs

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.

The perfect ring

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?"


-- Maggie Downs

V-Day!
February 14, 1:39 p.m.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Rose

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Eat them up -- Yum!
February 12, 4:04 p.m.
I had a very "Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom" moment during my first visit to the Salton Sea.

The boyfriend and I parked the car near the obsidian beach.

With my camera in hand, I'm drawn to the edge of the water. The boyfriend and I are racing down the beach together. And the ground is crunching beneath my flip-flops ...

Wait. The ground is CRUNCHING.

That's not normal.

Seriously, every step sounds like a package of Pop Rocks exploding.

"Did you notice the ground is crunching?" I say.

"Yeah," he says.

"I don't want to look down."

"Me neither."

But then I do.

And I realize we're standing on a beach made up entirely of crusty barnacles and dead fish.

Dead fish

"There's a fish head on my toe," I say.

"Yeah."

"Surprisingly, I'm OK with that."

So we continued to walk down the beach together and take photos. But I've never been one to let a little dead fish ruin my fun.

Beach


-- Maggie Downs

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 ...

Well, now I have some first-hand experience.

It's absolutely gorgeous.

Salton Sea

Birds

Flight


I can't wait to go back.


-- Maggie Downs

Float fight
February 09, 07:05 a.m.
ME: Ha ha ha. I had a root beer float today and you didn't! Ha ha! And it was delicious!

HIM: Why would you rub that in?

ME: Sometimes I'm mean.

HIM: Sometimes?

ME: Yes. Only sometimes.

HIM: More like sometimes you're nice.

-- Maggie Downs

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.)

So ...

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Yay Colts!
February 05, 11:50 a.m.
With a little help from Rachael Ray, I crafted the perfect food for yesterday's Super Bowl party.

I never thought tiny wieners could make me so happy, but here you go:

Tiny dogs

ADORABLE.

Who doesn't love a tiny dog? Especially one that can be coated in chipotle ketchup and maple mustard?


-- Maggie Downs

Indy cocktail
February 02, 3:14 p.m.
The good people at Malibu Rum sent me this Indianapolis-inspired cocktail just in time for the Super Bowl.

It's a cool blue drink called A Colt One:

1.5 parts Malibu Rum
3/4 part Malibu Pineapple Rum
3/4 part blue Curacao
1 3/4 parts pineapple juice
Mix contents in a shaker and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.

I'm not a huge football fan, but the boyfriend is the biggest Colts fan in the whole desert. Also, I think my brother has some money riding on the game. So ... go Indy! Woot.

-- Maggie Downs

Hidden Drive
January 31, 10:40 a.m.
Rationally, I know that this cannot be. It just doesn't make sense. The thing doesn't even exist.

But on a day like today -- when SEVEN vehicles try to merge into my car during my 8-mile commute to work -- I have to think it could possibly be true.

My car has a Harry Potter invisibility cloak on it.

Either that, or a bull's eye.

-- Maggie Downs

Art Show!
January 30, 5:22 p.m.
Saturday night was a really cool art party at Inka, a screenprinting and embroidery shop in Indio.

Devil

The show was the brainchild of Jesus Olivares, the owner of the shop and founder of the Inka Collective, a group of artists from the East Valley.

Check it out -- there was art EVERYWHERE, plus hundreds of people of all ages. (And as a bonus, they had a great DJ, beer and tacos. What more do you need?)

Inka

The artists included: Jesus Olivares, Efrain Herrera, Tone Rubio, Gonzalo Pinedo, Esteban Ramirez, Cecilia, Merge, Jeremiah, Ink Heads Crew, Eduardo Valdez, Kenia Silva, Aron and Naturalman.

I fell in love with many of the pieces -- everything was so unique and rich and lively.

Painting

The boyfriend loved this one:

Evil Mickey

It was really inspirational too. There's so much talent in this valley.

Face

Hands

Sculpture

Amazing.

If you want more information about Inka, visit their store at 45-080 Golf Center Parkway, Unit D, call them at 775-9747, or visit them at www.myspace.com/inkaprint.

-- Maggie Downs

The 10th Circle
January 29, 4:45 p.m.
I spent the morning in my own personal version of hell.

It involved nearly three hours at the mechanic, during which I had to sign over my firstborn child.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Fox News was blaring in the waiting room. And one lady, sitting at the back of the room, kept reacting to the TV.

"That's right!" she yelled, during a story about Hillary Clinton. "You tell it."

Across from me, an older woman was wearing a rhinestone-studded T-shirt that read, "All I need is love ... and chocolate."

She was playing a handheld Wheel of Fortune game with the volume turned way up. Every second or so, it would shower everyone with noise.

"Boop boop boop bip! Whoop whoop! Bing BONG! Bing BONG!"

She was apparently pretty good at the game.

I buried my head in my book, but the man next to me kept poking me in the side.

"You still waiting?" he said. "I'm still waiting too."

I texted my best friend with a curse-riddled plea to build a mass transit system so I never have to drive again.

And tequila. Lots of tequila.

-- Maggie Downs

Brunch
January 25, 4:04 p.m.
I forgot to post photos from the Screen Actor's Guild brunch, which was held the day after the black tie gala at the film fest.

It was almost better than the gala, because hey, it's brunch. And I love brunch.

As Jacques said on the Simpsons: It's not quite breakfast, it's not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.

It also comes with gorgeous granola:

Granola

This was the view from the party:

Palm trees

And this was the view on the other side -- it was positively breathtaking:

View

I loved the flowers, in very Palm Springs hues. These colors would make fabulous golf pants:

Flowers

And, of course, the place was peppered with celebrities, including Connie Francis, Jobeth Williams and some dude from "Extra." Or maybe it was "Access Hollywood."

Then there were your average, gorgeous, glowy Hollywood types, like Sienna Miller and Adam Beach.

Sienna & Adam

My co-worker, Valerie, approached Valerie Harper and said, "Hey, my parents were really big fans of you on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' so I was named after you."

Valerie Harper embraced her and said, "Oh Rhoda!"

Valerie

My favorite part of the day had to be the men dressed identically in suits, sunflower umbrealls and bowler hats. I'm a sucker for a good bowler hat. (See: Magritte obsession.)

Sunflower man

-- Maggie Downs

Arcade Fire!
January 24, 12:27 p.m.
There are two things that really make me glad I'm not dead yet:

1. The Simpsons movie. (In theaters 7.27.07.)

2. This year's Coachella lineup. (The Arcade Fire = Hooray!)

I had a ridiculously good time last year at Coachella. And now, there are THREE days of fun, art and amazing music? I don't think I can handle it.

Statue

Witchy

Maggie and friend



-- Maggie Downs

Q&A
January 23, 12:41 p.m.
Stogies

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?


-- Maggie Downs

Soul patrol
January 20, 00:05 a.m.
I just got home from one of the VIP parties for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic hosted by George Lopez.

Toward the end of the evening, Taylor Hicks walked out of the men's room. Two women stopped in their tracks and STARED. Just stared.

"Oh my God, you're Taylor Hicks," said one lady.

"I totally voted for you," said her friend.

"So did I," he said.


-- Maggie Downs

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."

Again, sarcasm.

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.


-- Maggie Downs

Oral Fixation
January 18, 4:29 p.m.
Glowy

The boyfriend and I ended up in Santa Barbara yesterday -- and this view was the payoff for a really bad trip.

It's too long and sordid to get into all the details right now, so I'll just tell you the moral of the story:

A free root canal is never really free.


-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

Smoothie Operator
January 16, 3:48 p.m.
It was too early in the morning for such blender carnage -- soymilk and berries and flax seed EVERYWHERE.

Ack!


-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Oh, Brad
January 10, 4:38 p.m.
Look at me, the very serious journalist talking to Brad Pitt about very important issues.

I think this was the point in the interview when he was saying, "Maggie, how did you solve the problem in Darfur just like that? You are a genius! And you have such shiny hair, too!"

So serious!

And then he embraced me with his eyes.

Brad

Read my column on Sunday for more details on the precious moments I shared with Brad.

Also, big thanks to Jehan for taking these photos.


-- Maggie Downs

Ol' Blue Eyes
January 09, 4:36 p.m.
I attended the House & Garden party at Frank Sinatra's Twin Palms estate on Friday night.

I have to admit, I was really impressed by the place -- especially the House & Garden logo that was cast onto the pool.

Twin Palms

Yes, I am easy to impress.

I was also fascinated by the combination of old and new in the entertainment system:

New & Old

The only bad thing about the party was an hors d'oeuvre I tried. And really, the name itself should have been a giant red flag -- lobster sausage.

Hey, I like lobster. And I like sausage. But the two together is like Fancy Feast in a tube.

-- Maggie Downs

Pinch me!
January 09, 07:29 a.m.
We had an unexpected visitor at poker last night:

Pinch me

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

Dad

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.

Chevy

Meanwhile, I amused myself by taking photos. Here I am as Cyclops:

Cyclops

And I really love this image:

Sad girl

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.


-- Maggie Downs

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.

Inside

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.

Bowler Hat

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.

Sign

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.

Door

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Merry Christmas!
December 25, 5:40 p.m.
Santa cat

No tuna?

No presents.

-- Maggie Downs

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."

"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.


-- Maggie Downs

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 leslie@lifestylecatalysts.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.

Space is limited, so call Trent soon at 481-4445.
-- Maggie Downs

Side-splitting
December 19, 4:46 p.m.
I've had this pain in my gut for the last few days. It's around the middle of my belly, and it feels very much like a person stabbing me with a rusty fork.

I finally broke down and went to urgent care, after some cajoling by my friends.

I was feeling miserable. The pain was becoming more frequent and excrutiating. And I just had this overall malaise.

And then I saw something in the exam room that nearly made me fall off the table ... because, apparently, I am 7 years old:

Anuscopes

Hee hee hee. HILARIOUS.

That box made me laugh for the first time in three days.

This is how you win me over, people: A big box of anuscopes.


-- Maggie Downs

Food for thought
December 15, 4:34 p.m.
Someday I want to create a Dessert Crawl -- kind of like a bar hop, but instead traveling from restaurant to restaurant to sample delicious sweets.

And someday when I do that, Le Vallauris will be at the top of my list for places to go.

On Thursday I had lunch there for the first time. And even though the lobster ravioli was divine and the company was charming, the dessert was the shining star of the meal.

I had the creme brulee trio, a sampler of three tiny ramekins: one vanilla, one raspberry, one ginger.

The hard sugar crust on top of each made a satisfying crack as my spoon entered it. Inside, the custard was soft and thick, quivering gently as I rolled it around on my tongue.

Each one was better than the last.

I once read a study that determined that women get more aroused by photos of creme brulee than photos of Brad Pitt.

I'm not much of a Brad Pitt person anyway; he's just not my type. But I can say with confidence that my creme brulee trio was deeply and utterly satisfying.

My only regret is that I didn't get a chance to nibble at the chocolate volcano cake also.

-- Maggie Downs

The Fly Zone
December 11, 3:08 p.m.
This is what happens when your company holiday party is held at an air museum.

Prop

Jason

Cockpit

Me

-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Not tonight
December 07, 4:04 p.m.
Sorry. No deep and thoughtful blog posting today -- I have a migraine gnawing on my head.

Instead, I will leave you with a Deep Thought by Jack Handey:

As the light changed from red to green to yellow and back to red again, I sat there thinking about life. Was it nothing more than a bunch of honking and yelling? Sometimes it seemed that way.

See more deep thoughts at www.deepthoughtsbyjackhandey.com.

-- Maggie Downs

Chatter
December 06, 11:21 a.m.
In my Drink of the Week column today, I say that the cajun martini will "get you running like a scalded dog." (That's a traditional Southern phrase, by the way.)

Horrified reader calls to say that I'm encouraging people to scald dogs.

Of course. Because there aren't nearly enough scalded dogs running around.


-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

I think he's going to be just fine.

Mean ol' mug

-- Maggie Downs

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.

Festival

Ferris Wheel


-- Maggie Downs

Me So Corny
December 04, 12:38 p.m.
Blech

How to eat 32 tamales in three easy steps:

1. Become a judge for the International Tamale Festival, the world's largest celebration of all things enclosed in a husk.

2. Expect to spend about four hours sampling from the parade of tamales. The panel of 10 judges saw everything from pineapple (delicious) to soggy, uncooked chicken (not so delicious).

3. Wear elastic pants.

-- Maggie Downs

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:

"Aw, man. This is the sissy drink."

I love him.


-- Maggie Downs

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.

Example #1

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 ...

Example #2

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)

Example #3

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Overheard
November 29, 5:19 p.m.
Last night at the Girlfriend Factor's mixer at Ruth's Chris Steak House, a woman glanced at her watch and saw that it was just after 8 p.m.

"Oh, shoot. It's Del Webb midnight," she said, making a quick exit.

-- Maggie Downs

Joshua Tree weekend
November 28, 11:30 a.m.
Weeds

Another visit from my brother and his family.

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.

Desert colors

The day ended up in Pioneertown, watching the sun set over the old Western village.

Tree
-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Cat's Out of the Bag
November 22, 07:06 a.m.
After years of trying -- and failing -- I finally have a pet that will pick up HBO.

Satellite head


-- Maggie Downs

The Garden of Eatin'
November 21, 5:05 p.m.
The lemons are finally growing on their weird lemon bush/tree/shrub thing that's out on my back patio.

This is one of the many things I love about living in California: The citrus.

Lemons

It wasn't always like that, though.

When I first moved here, I remember staring at a tree in my backyard. There were giant pink-orange orbs hanging from the branches.

"What is it?" I asked my friend Joe.

I've spent most of my life in Ohio and have never really encountered a tree like this. Especially not one in my backyard.

Back home we had crabapples and lush mulberry trees and wild blackberry bushes. But this? These soft, round globes? Never.

"It's some kind of citrus, I think," said Joe, who was visiting from Cincinnati.

"I think it's a grapefruit."

"Nah. Grapefruit are yellow."

"Grapefruit come in pink too," I said. "I've had it before. From Ocean Spray. ... Trust me. Let's pick one and find out."

"No. You can't do that."

"Why not? It's just one little grapefruit ..."

"You'll die," Joe said. "You don't know what they've sprayed on those trees."

"Oh, come on," I said, as I plucked a particularly big one and ran inside.

I placed it on a cutting board and prepared for the surgery. I deftly took chef's knife through the skin. Some of the juicy contents spilled out. There was pulp -- and a lot of it.

Citrus. Definitely.

"I'm going to eat it."

"NO!" Joe said, prying half the fruit from my hands. "You're going to die. Seriously."

"Why? It's just a fruit."

"They have to be processed first," Joe said. "I know. I lived in California before."

"Joe, you lived in Sacramento."

"Same difference."

So I heeded Joe's warning -- who wants to die from strange fruit? -- and the produce remained uneaten.

But I asked for advice the next day at work.

"So what do I have to do in order to eat a grapefruit?" I said. "Like, how do I prepare it?"

"Well, you slice it open," my colleague said.

"That's it?"

"That's it."

So I've learned my lesson. And now I figure there's a reason Adam didn't eat the apple -- he probably thought it had to be processed first.


-- Maggie Downs

Gets the Worm
November 15, 11:43 a.m.
Last night I went to dinner with friends ... and we ordered our meal in time for the Early Bird Special.

I'm either getting very old or simply getting savvy to how to save money in Palm Springs.


-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

WOW.

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.


-- Maggie Downs

GO VOTE!
November 07, 3:09 p.m.
If you're sitting at your desk reading this, you're not where you need to be -- the polls.

Go vote.

All the cool people are doing it.

Vote!

-- Maggie Downs

Voters Get Fit for FREE!
November 07, 10:24 a.m.
This is pretty cool -- exercising your right to vote can also make you physically fit!

Bring in your voter’s stub or other proof of voting to Fitness Express between now and Saturday, and receive a free day pass to the gym.

"Our club’s focus is on community health. And it takes people who care about the community’s leadership and political issues to build a healthy community," said Audrey Hobson, owner of the new gym.

Fitness Express is located at 73600 Alessandro Drive, just east of San Pablo & north of Hwy 111. For more info, call (760) 779-1555.

-- Maggie Downs

Dia de Los Muertos
November 06, 4:37 p.m.
I attended my first Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration this weekend, and it was fantastic.

In addition to being very fun and festive, the event was really powerful and moving.

The artwork was gorgeous, the altars were beautiful and the whole approach to death and dying was very healthy.

Altar

I made a cross for a friend who passed on and placed it on the community altar. My friend's 6-year-old daughter, Sarah, approached me and tugged on my skirt until I squatted down beside her.

"Was that a friend of yours?" she said.

"Yes."

"A friend who died?"

"Yes."

"What was your friend's name?"

I told the girl his name.

"How did he die?"

"Um, it was a skydiving accident."

"Oh. I'm so sorry. That's really, really sad," she said, throwing her arms around my shoulders and embracing me. "... What's skydiving?"

Not more than one second later, she was on to the next topic -- playing with my hair.

"Sorry about your friend, but I like your hair. It's curly."

-- Maggie Downs

Funny coffee
November 02, 2:08 p.m.
As if there weren't already enough reasons to love Koffi (515 N. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs) ...

Yesterday afternoon, my boyfriend and I grabbed a couple of drinks there. He paid, and I gladly accepted.

When our drinks were ready, his chai tea latte said this:

Benefactor


Hee. "Maggie's Benefactor."

Hilarious!

-- Maggie Downs

That's the Spirit!
November 01, 1:18 p.m.
I have to hand it to Jackie Lee and Jim Houston -- they throw one hell of a Halloween party.

It was incredibly extravagant, way beyond my expectations. I was most awed by the gigantic pirate ship that washed up smack dab in the middle of the yard.

Party


Ahoy!

O Captain!


I knew the Houstons were pretty well-off. But who knew they had so much gold? (Also, I don't think it's smart to just leave it all on the lawn like that.)

Gold!


A thick fog rolled across the estate, creeping around all the boys and ghouls ... and even magicians.

Magician


There were skeletons, cobwebs and faces everywhere -- even the trees were scary.

Eeek!


I saw dead people.

White as Ghost


I also saw some great costumes ...

Artists!


Bob


Here's my boyfriend. My parents would be so proud -- I'm finally dating a doctor. Dr. Pepper, that is.

Jason


Here's my costume -- I wore roadkill. I also apparently wore a strange and crazed look on my face. (Maybe because my dress was falling down?)

Me


And here's a really unflattering shot of me, post-party.

Oldie

Man, I need to quit partying so hard.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Random funny
October 31, 1:23 p.m.
The funniest thing my dance partner, Phil, ever said to me:

"You know, it's not too late to do the robot."


-- Maggie Downs

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.

Second! Place!

Woo!!!

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:

Phil


And here's me with my fancy chocolate coin monocle:

Me

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.

-- Maggie Downs

We're Famous
October 25, 11:23 a.m.
If you haven't seen or heard anything about Dancing With Our Stars, you haven't been paying attention.

With the event fast approaching on Saturday night, it seems like the dancers and instructors are everywhere to promote the charity fundraiser.

Here's Lynne Bunch of A Charity Affaire (the group that is producing the event). She's bening interviewed by DJ Dan McGrath during the breakfast broadcasts at Ruby's Diner in Rancho Mirage.

Interview

-- Maggie Downs

It Takes Two (Hours) to Tango
October 25, 09:19 a.m.
Another day, another tango rehearsal. My feet are already crying.

Video to come tomorrow -- you'll get a sneak peek at my outfit for the competition!


-- Maggie Downs

I'm a Sell Out!
October 24, 09:49 a.m.
The Girlfriend Factor is doing a SUPER COOL thing to gather more votes for me in the Dancing With Our Stars competition.

They are holding a virtual silent auction, where all the bids are submitted via e-mail.

The winning bidder will receive:

* A one-hour dance lesson from Johanna Supple Cullip, my fabulous instructor and choreographer for the show.

* Dinner and drinks for the winner and a
guest at Ruth's Chris Steak House. Yum!

* And me! All of these activities will be done by the side of this adorable young thing:

maggie15


So if you happen to like steak, dancing, sparkling conversation and people named Maggie, I urge you to submit a bid as soon as possible.

E-mail your bids to girlfriend@thegirlfriendfactor.org.

All bidders will be notified daily by e-mail what the current highest bid is, so they may increase theirs if they wish. The winner will be
announced on Monday, October 30.

Best of all, proceeds go to The Girlfriend Factor ... so you can rest easy at night, knowing that you are helping a good cause.

-- Maggie Downs

Vote for me!
October 23, 1:54 p.m.
Have you seen the fabulous ads in The Desert Sun about Dancing With Our Stars?

So now you know all about what I'm doing and why.

But here's one more thing you need to know: HOW YOU CAN HELP.

Your votes can simultaneously help me win the dance competition AND raise money for a really awesome charity, The Girlfriend Factor.

Best of all, each vote is only $10.

Vote by visiting www.thegirlfriendfactor.org. There's an easy-peasy, clickable button on the bottom of the home page, where you can vote through PayPal.

Don't want to use the computer? Just call Lynne Bunch at Dancing With Our Stars at (760)218-1687.

There's never been a quicker or easier way to help a worthy cause!

And buy more than one vote if you want. Heck, buy a dozen of them. My feet need all the support they can get.

Thank you! Kisses!

-- Maggie Downs

WOUNDED!
October 18, 3:38 p.m.
Anyone who doesn't believe dancing is a sport is just plain wrong.

It's physical and intense, requires great footwork and coordination ... and it draws blood.

Last night was a particularly intense session. Check out this wound on my ankle:

Wound!

-- Maggie Downs

Nerves
October 17, 09:41 a.m.
With the art museum event off my plate, I'm completely focused on Dancing With Our Stars.

And ... I just realized the compeition is only 11 days away. EEK! We don't even have the entire dance choreographed yet; we have about half of it done.

Although I know big portions of the dance, I'm having trouble remembering some of the transitions. What if that happens when I'm on stage?

I will die. I'm sure of it.

I have another rehearsal today. Keep your fingers crossed that it'll go well.

-- Maggie Downs

Art & Soul
October 16, 4:05 p.m.
Friday night's Come Get Lucky party at the Palm Springs Art Museum was so fabulous.

Actually, I think every one of my friends did indeed get lucky in one way or another -- made a new friend, made a new contact, made out ...

Except for the boyfriend. He didn't get lucky. He just got me.

This is my favorite shot from the after-party at the Viceroy. It's me, the boyfriend and a couple of our best buddies:

Bed

And if you weren't there? That's lame. Better luck next year.

-- Maggie Downs

Chicken soup for the sole
October 12, 3:35 p.m.
I keep dancing away as the ballroom dance competition creeps closer and closer.

I had another rehearsal today, just my instructor Johanna and me. She's trying to teach me the basics ... along with some fluidity, rhythm, grace.

It's hard, but I'm slowly getting there. My spirit remains unbroken. But my shoes -- well, they're a different story.

Poor shoe

My poor shoes! If any of you know of a good cobbler, email me at maggie.downs@thedesertsun.com.

-- Maggie Downs

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 ...

-- Maggie Downs

Tango Lesson, Part Two
October 10, 1:46 p.m.
Phil and I had our second tango lesson on Sunday. It went quite well, considering that I dance like Elaine on "Seinfeld."

This is the first part of our routine, which will look much better once I have a huge shirt to swish around. (Bonus: A huge skirt will also make it more difficult to see my feet!)

By the way, that super-cool music you hear in the backround? Phil wrote, performed and recorded it. He's awesome.





-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

My mom

-- Maggie Downs

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.

YUM

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.

I never want to go out to eat again.


-- Maggie Downs

Sunny Side Up
October 04, 12:57 p.m.
I don't know if the desert sky has been especially beautiful lately, or if I've just started paying attention.

The past couple days, as I've been leaving the house for my morning bike ride, I've rushed back inside to grab my camera. The colors and the clouds have been absolutely fantastic.

Clouds

It makes me a little sorry I haven't been waking up early and photographing the sky all along.

Orange

I realize these are pretty much the same photos over and over ... but just look at the stunning display behind those trees. It's like the sky has become a kaleidoscope.

Fiery

This is worth waking up at an ungodly hour.

Red



-- Maggie Downs

Me on TV!
September 29, 2:27 p.m.
I'm doing this very cool thing.

And to promote said very cool thing, I was invited to be on Pattie Daly Caruso's show.

To see it, watch Channel 10 starting tonight at 8:30 p.m. -- and then at various other times throughout the next week.

Watch for it!

If you happen to miss the show, look for more details about my very cool thing soon on thedesertsun.com.

And here's a clue -- MY POOR, ACHING FEET!

Shoes, glorious shoes!

-- Maggie Downs

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.

I need to get working on all that immediately.

Beautiful!

-- Maggie Downs

Car Go Boom
September 28, 3:17 p.m.
I was just drifting off to sleep last night when ...

THERE WAS A HORRIBLE COLLISION OUTSIDE.

Crash. Boom. Bang.

I threw on my robe, ran to the window and saw two SUV-ish vehicles all jacked up on the corner of my street.

I ran outside. Boyfriend called 911.

One of the SUVs backed up a little, dragging metal on the concrete, and very nearly ran over me as it tore off down the street.

I ran up to the other car and yelled, "Are you OK?"

They flipped off the vehicle's headlights and were very silent. I got a little bit closer and yelled again. "Is everyone OK?"

"Yeah, yeah. We're fine. Just some #$@$ing $&#$& ..." said a girl as she hopped out of the car to access the damage.

At this point, the boyfriend had caught up with me. He was continuing to give the police directions.

"My boyfriend is calling 911," I told the people.

"%$&#! He's calling the police," someone said. "Let's go! Let's go! Let's go!"

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.


-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

Ishta


And big, too.

Paws


We were allowed inside the dens with the wolves and fed them frozen chicken drumsticks by hand.

Snuggly wolf


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.

Lick


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.

Playing


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

The wolves will thank you.

Dakota

-- Maggie Downs

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."


-- Maggie Downs

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 ...

Empty plate


To seafood on the wharf ...

Seafood


And linguini overlooking the bay ...

Mussels


And finally cappuccino in Union Square ...

Cappuccino

It's a good thing that city has so many hills to walk up.

-- Maggie Downs

Reading is so dangerous
September 15, 3:59 p.m.
San Francisco

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.


-- Maggie Downs

Who's Zoomin' Who?
September 14, 5:42 p.m.
Motion

Moody Thursday.

That's what this is.

The Queen of Soul herself, Lady Soul, Sister Re, Miss Thang -- ARETHA FRANKLIN -- canceled her show tonight. And my friends and I are so bummed.

I mean, the state of Michigan once declared her voice a natural wonder. Of course we were excited for the show.

Thus, the Moody Thursday party.

We're going to get together, listen to old vinyl, maybe jam with some of our own instruments and indulge in some spirits.

Sock it to me.

-- Maggie Downs

Just one more
September 13, 4:01 p.m.
OK. I know. I've been getting a little video happy today.

And I was going to stop. I really was.

But then I was writing all this stuff about Johnny Hickman, and I think this clip of Cracker doing "Low" really shows off his mad guitar skills.

So here you go. This is the last video for a while. I swear.




-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

Had a Dream I Wanted to Sleep Next to Plastic
September 13, 2:39 p.m.
And here it is! "Take the Skinheads Bowling" from start to finish.

I have to apologize for the shaky camera work, though. I was standing on a bench with some overzealous fans from St. Louis. They were stomping their feet and dancing and making a big ruckus.

But, eh -- who can blame them?




-- Maggie Downs

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.



-- Maggie Downs

We have liftoff!
September 13, 11:03 a.m.
The video seems to be working now.

Here's Cracker performing "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)" at the campout last weekend.

I'll upload some more clips this afternoon. I have John Doe with Camper Van Beethoven (doing Woody Guthrie, I think), as well as "Take the Skinheads Bowling" in its entirety. Woot.



-- Maggie Downs

Video ... maybe
September 13, 10:49 a.m.
OK. I'm going to try adding a video of Neko Case. I've had some trouble uploading things, so I don't know if this will work.

If it does, you'll see a minute of Neko performing a cover of "Buckets of Rain." The sound quality isn't the best, but you'll get the idea.

And if it doesn't ... sorry.




-- Maggie Downs

Technical difficulties
September 11, 11:31 a.m.
I took a load of photos and a bunch of video during the Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven campout this weekend ... but for some reason nothing is working.

I can't get anything to upload. Every time I try, it crashes my computer.

I'll keep working on it, and hopefully I'll get some up soon. Keep your fingers crossed.

-- Maggie Downs

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?"


-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Miss Takes
September 07, 4:11 p.m.
Last week I wrote about mortifying things that happened to me as a child.

Good to know that there are just some things you never grow out of.

Example #1: I'm at Macy's, furiously trying on clothes for that night's outing to Red 74.

I finally find something that will work and race over to the cash register. There's a big crowd of people in line, so I patiently make conversation with a few folks as I wait.

Finally, it's my turn. As the sales lady rings me up, she glances up at me and then cracks up.

"Your shirt is on backward," she says.

Not only was it on backward -- but there was a big, fat tag brushing against the bottom of my chin, and I didn't even notice.

As I ran back to the fitting rooms, I heard the other people in line hysterically laughing.

Example #2: I'm at the River, and the back of my skirt is tucked into my panties.

And that's about the whole story right there.

How cool am I?

-- Maggie Downs

Hello, Goodbye
September 01, 3:03 p.m.
I have no good excuse for why I didn't post these photos earlier. But, really, they're just so funny and awesome, you should be glad I'm posting them at all.

Last weekend was Darrell Smith's last big romp through the desert, which he celebrated with a bash at Red 74.

Take this as a good lesson in Party 101: All the truly great nights require cake, Elvis and some damn sexy shoes.

What's what

Nelsy Rodriguez shouting? No. Can't be.


Cake

Ah, Darrell. The object of my confection ...

Shut up. You know that joke was funny.


Elvis

Of course.


Excitement

Somebody in this photo obviously always puts her best feet forward.


Bliss

Chicken soup for the sole.


Ah, good times. We'll miss you, Darrell.

(cue Boyz II Men song here.)



-- Maggie Downs

White Hot Anger
August 31, 10:25 a.m.
The grill of my car almost met a man last night.

I was at the 19th Hole Sports Bar & Restaurant. And I was leaving the first anniversary party of The Girlfriend Factor, a gathering of dozens of smart, beautiful, strong women.

Walking out the door with me were a couple other women, who had also attended the party.

"Wait, girls! Don't go!" said a belligerent man on the patio, puffing away at a cigarette.

We ignored him and kept walking toward the parking lot.

"What was this, anyway?" the guy screams after me. "A secretary convention?"

Then he called me a crude name.

Fortunately for this guy, gas is too expensive to bother going out of my way to run over him.


-- Maggie Downs

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."

But, I told him, that's what I love about it.

Wow



-- Maggie Downs

Midday Cat Break
August 22, 11:52 a.m.

I swear, I'm not becoming some crazy old cat lady. (Even though I drink tea. And knit. And am slightly obsessive over my cat.)

I just think Kung Pao Kitten is the most awesome little guy. And I know people in the valley love adorable pets -- so here you go.

Who wouldn't love this face?

Yawning

-- Maggie Downs

Choco Love
August 18, 3:40 p.m.

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.)

I can't wait to hit up the market next week.

-- Maggie Downs

That's What Friends Are For
August 17, 4:56 p.m.

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!"

-- Maggie Downs

Overheard
August 14, 5:00 p.m.
"So where's Palm Springs?"

-- Woman standing on overlook at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.


-- Maggie Downs

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.

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.

Totum Pole

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.

Soda

Soda

Soda caps


We walked around outside and each enjoyed bottles of frosty cold root beer, the powerful kind that stings the back of your throat.

What a sweet day.


-- Maggie Downs

Learnin' to fly
August 08, 4:45 p.m.
My story about trapeze school runs in tomorrow's paper.

It was probably one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life. And I STILL get butterflies every time I think about standing atop that little platform.

IMG_2295


-- Maggie Downs

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.

Sam: They're real.


-- Maggie Downs

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.

Unless, of course, you are drinking Zima.

That is unacceptable, male or female.

-- Maggie Downs

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 Downs

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.

Wine


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.

Jason


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.

Birthday martini


Sunday was trapeze school, which was incredible. Look for the story soon in The Desert Sun.

IMG_2297


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:

Four Aces!


We also ate a lot of cupcakes that I made from scratch -- chocolate, mojito and these fantastic little orange cream cupcakes:

Cupcakes


I am so thankful to have such great friends who made my birthday so very special. Mwah!

-- Maggie Downs

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.

Just odd.


-- Maggie Downs

We're So Fly
July 31, 5:46 p.m.
What do you do for a big milestone birthday when you're already a licensed skydiver? What could possibly be more daring? More challenging? More fun?

Trapeze school.

I held my birthday party at a trapeze school in Woodland Hills and received instruction from one of the best aerial artists in the world.

Ten of my most swingin' friends from the desert were up for this high-class challenge.

Within the first few minutes, we were head over heels -- literally.

I'm so proud of us. We accomplished so much more than I ever expected. It was amazing -- I'll definitely be doing a story about this soon.

IMG_2296

Happy birthday to me!

It was a great one.

More details on the rest of the weekend later ...

-- Maggie Downs

"I'll be baaack"
July 28, 4:27 p.m.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped by The Desert Sun earlier today. And I almost got arrested/killed by his security thugs.

See, I was racing to finish an assignment for Monday's paper. I jumped into my car and zipped through the parking lot, toward the exit I always use.

Only this time there were some orange barricades blocking part of that path.

No matter, I thought. I'll just drive around those.

Turns out those barricades were there for a reason -- to keep some space around Schwarzenegger and his sizable entourage.

The moment I drove past was also the precise moment the Governator was leaving the building. Some thugs immediately jumped into action, leaping in the general vicinity of my car.

At this point, I only had one choice -- continue through the next set of barricades.

So that's exactly what I did.

In my rear view mirror, I saw the thugs shaking their fists as I drove away.

-- Maggie Downs

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."

GAH.

I love libraries, so it hurts me to say this -- I think from now on I'll be getting my books from Amazon.com.

-- Maggie Downs

Benefit Bash
July 21, 10:19 a.m.
The good news: Red 74 in Palm Desert is having a benefit for those affected by the Sawtooth Complex Fire.

It'll be an evening of dinner, live music and dancing on Friday, July 28 -- "in the tradition of Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace," according to the press release.

It's just $15 and all proceeds go to the Sawtooth Fire Fund at the Morongo Basin Red Cross.

The bad news: The club will be calling itself RedNECK 74 for the night.

Way to kick a place while it's down.


-- Maggie Downs

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.

Such as:

"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.

(Ooh, snap!)

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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:

Train car in Pioneertown:

Train car


Ouside of Pipes Canyon Preserve:

Old car


An outbuilding on Rimrock Road:

Workshop


Rubble in Pioneertown:
Rubble


Pioneertown:

Sign


-- Maggie Downs

Overheard
July 18, 09:42 a.m.
"I just went to the bathroom, and some lady tried to sell me a pug."

-- My friend, during a visit to Neil's Bar in Indio.


-- Maggie Downs

Surreal
July 14, 10:33 a.m.
I spent hours in Pioneertown yesterday, gathering stories about the destruction and devastation.

It was a very surreal scene, almost like another planet. Golden, hazy, smoky.

Dead

There was also an eerie silence where the fire had already burned -- no people, no traffic, no birds, no insects. Just absolute quiet, only occasionally disrupted by the helicopters overhead.

I have more photos to share, but I need to go back out to the fire. More later.



-- Maggie Downs

Much Love for Pioneertown
July 11, 3:49 p.m.
It's breaking my heart to look out of my office window and see the plumes of smoke rising from the Ridge Fire over by Pioneertown.

It took me a few months after moving here to actually discover the community. But once I found it, I was a frequent visitor.

It was just one of Those Places. Whenever somebody would say they hadn't yet been to Pioneertown, I felt it was my duty to take them there. "Oh, you HAVE to go."

See -- I'm a sucker for swinging doors:

Saloon door


One of my favorite things about the desert is Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace, the coolest bar in all the land. (Plus, their chili kicks serious ass.)

The bar


There they have a ceiling fan that is absolutely useless -- but endearing.

Ceiling fan


This sheriff's office turns arrest into something quaint and adorable:

Sheriff


This is the most frequently photographed post office in the United States:

Post office


I sent this next photo to my dad and told him it was my new condo:

Trading post


Pioneertown's livery is on Mane Street. Get it? MANE Street? Ha ha ha.

Livery


So beautiful. So cool. So sad to see it all go up in flames.

OK Corral


My thoughts and prayers are going out to everyone in that area right now. Take care and be safe.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

Italian stallion

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.

I won.

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.

Nothing wrong with that.

-- Maggie Downs

Baby, We Were Born To Rum ... and Vodka
July 07, 3:21 p.m.
MT: What are you people doing for fun this weekend? I need to let off steam.

MAGGIE: Tomorrow is softball practice, then going to L.A. On Sunday is the World Cup party, then sobering up in time for the softball game. But tonight I'm free. Wanna do something?

MT: Tonight sounds fab.

MAGGIE: I need to get some work done for my drink of the week column anyway.

MT: We could hit up a couple places.

MAGGIE: I could do three, four, even FIVE drinks of the week!

So that's how this all came together. The girls and I will be doing a pub crawl of sorts around La Quinta tonight.

I can tell already, this is going to be one long, interesting night -- lots of cocktails, some straight up and dirty sex talk, and at the end of it all, an exasperated boyfriend/designated driver.

I can't wait!

If you see us, come over and say hi. Or even better, buy us something of the hard liquor variety.

-- Maggie Downs

Shoot Me Now
July 03, 09:42 a.m.
I never thought this day would come.

I've been invited to a party that has a dress code of "California casual."

AND I KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS.




-- Maggie Downs

Trammy goodness
June 28, 10:48 a.m.
Hey, did you guys know there's a tram here?

I finally invested in a summer pass (just $50 for the whole season), and it's probably the best money I've spent in a long while.

Looking down

It's 75 degrees up there! In the blazing heat of Palm Springs summer, 75 degrees is like gas for $2.15 a gallon -- just a beautiful dream.

Only it's a reality at the tram. (The temperature, not the gas part. That IS just a fantasy.)

And it's gorgeous.

Stream

This past weekend, Boyfriend and I went up with some friends, who know the area around the tram really well.

They led us to the hidden lake, which is such an unexpected gift in the middle of this place. I had no idea such beauty was right there above the desert all along.

Click here to see the hidden lake for yourself!


View

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.

Bird

-- Maggie Downs

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."

Stephen Malkmus

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.

Sonic Youth

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.

Guitar God

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.

Wow

What a show. What amazing live music. And what a way to end my four-day Bonnaroo extravaganza.

-- Maggie Downs

Behind the Music
June 22, 5:29 p.m.
There's a certain age at which men should stop highlighting their hair and wearing sleeveless shirts.

I take that last bit back. They should NEVER -- at any age -- wear sleeveless shirts.

I'm looking at you, John Norris from MTV News.

MTV News


-- Maggie Downs

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.

"Uh, no."

"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.

"I don't think so."


-- Maggie Downs

Clap Your Hands!
June 21, 12:17 p.m.
Here is some really stellar music.

Indie pop darling Alec Ounsworth, singer and guitarist for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, played a special acoustic set backstage at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

These songs are so interesting because they don't sound anything like the high-energy, quirky music of the band -- even though they're the very same tunes.

On his own, Ounsworth is more subtle, more subdued, but still every bit as magical.

Click here to listen. My favorite is the last one, "Is This Love?"



Singing


-- Maggie Downs

The rapper's wrap
June 20, 6:14 p.m.
One of the weirder sights at Bonnaroo was when I ran into Hasidic Jewish reggae rapper Matisyahu having lunch with some of his orthodox buddies.

They can't eat pork, but boy, do they love mayo. And Bud Light, surprisingly.

How kosher.

Laughing


They were eating tortillas with some sort of deli beef.

Hmmm


-- Maggie Downs

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.

Beck puppets

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.

All in all, quite a show. Hell yes.


-- Maggie Downs

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.

Dirrrty Girl

Best thing about leaving Bonnaroo: Showers. With soap and everything.


-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

just got to bonnaroo!
June 15, 8:22 p.m.
I'm updating this via phone so I need to keep it short.
I'm here,I'm with friends and we have 15 cases of beer.this is gonna rock.
-- Maggie Downs

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 ...

THIS:

Burgers galore


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.

Oh, the cheese


Still, we ate and ate and ate ...

Munch


And then we ate some more, until we were all glassy-eyed and fatigued ...

Meat coma


And ... well, you'll just have to read Saturday's story to find out the rest. It's quite a doozy.


-- Maggie Downs

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 maggie.downs@thedesertsun.com, and we'll hook up.

-- Maggie Downs

Countdown to Bonnaroo
June 13, 5:14 p.m.
Thursday can't come soon enough.

That's when I leave for the Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, Tenn., where I'll be camping out with friends until Monday.

It's one of those trips where I don't exactly know where I'm staying or how to get there or if I'll have a sleeping bag. I don't even know if I'll be able to take a shower.

But one thing is certain: I'm going to have a lot of fun.

I can't wait.

-- Maggie Downs

So ...
June 12, 5:23 p.m.
On Saturday I went to Soak City for Hummer Appreciation Day.

Insert your own joke here.


-- Maggie Downs

Five Minutes in Palm Springs
June 09, 5:00 p.m.
1:10 p.m. Friday, June 19

Scene: Driving down Palm Canyon in downtown Palm Springs

The many, many cars are squeezing down the lanes like blood through an artery. All one smooth flow. All one direction.

At the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon, a small red convertible attempted to join us.

THE WRONG WAY.

The women had careened onto Palm Canyon traveling the wrong direction, and after a good few seconds finally realized their grave error. They skidded to a stop.

It's not often when one sees four females, all making the exact same expression at the exact same time. And in this case, that expression would be of the "Oh $#*@!!!" variety.

Now I've had deer in my headlights before, but this was way worse. The deer never screamed.

Another five seconds or so and the women finally decided to try to join traffic again, this time the correct direction.

They sped off, their headlights zipping through the red light in front of us.

-- Maggie Downs

Ah, Vern
June 08, 3:49 p.m.
My boyfriend was on the phone earlier with our friend from back home, Vern.

Talk eventually turned to the weather.

VERN: Dude, it's so hot here. It's like 90, 95.

BOYFRIEND: Yeah, it's been pretty hot here too. Over the weekend it was about 114, maybe 115. But now it's cooled off to about 104.

VERN: Holy [expletive]! What is that place? Like a desert or something?


-- Maggie Downs

Getting Nailed
June 07, 2:36 p.m.
If you read my column in this Thursday's paper, you'll see a little story about a bizarre nail salon incident.

Here's something else that happened that day:

I wasn't exactly paying close attention to what the manicurist was doing -- as I was a little too busy watching the woman who had pulled her breast out of her tank top.

But I figured it's a French manicure. What could go wrong?

Turns out a LOT.

By the time I snapped my head back around, I saw my nails were being plastered with rhinestones.

"Stop!" I said.

The manicurist looked at me with a blank face.

"No! I do not want those."

She didn't speak English.

"Rhinestones NO. Rhinestones BAD. Rhinestones BLECH."

This was her cue to add more.

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."

"Niiice."

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."

-- Maggie Downs

Chow down
June 06, 3:52 p.m.
I have a story in tomorrow's paper about the fantastic Certified Farmers' Market of Desert Hot Springs, held every Thursday from 7 to 11 a.m.

If you go, you'll get goodies like these gold beets!

Gold beets


Purple carrots!

Carrots


Yellow squash!

Pattypan


Pink hearts! Orange stars! Yellow moons! Green clover! Blue diamonds!

OK, those last ones were a lie.

But doesn't that produce look awesome? Who knew veggies could be so hot?


-- Maggie Downs

Oh, Monaco.
June 02, 1:29 p.m.
I was sitting at a Palm Desert bar last night, listening to people chatter on about this royal craziness, what with Prince Albert and his out-of-wedlock child.

And over and over, people kept asking about how this whole thing went down.

"How did this happen?" they said. "How did a local waitress hook up with a prince?"

What? Have you people ever been to Monaco?

It's TINY. Our country makes submarines bigger than Monaco. I've eaten a steak bigger than Monaco. My cat has made piles bigger than Monaco.

It's one of the world's smallest countries AND it's the most densely populated.

Cripes. Just turn around and you're accidentally impregnanted by the prince.

To be honest, I'm surprised Albert doesn't have more kids. And a couple boyfriends at that.

-- Maggie Downs

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?

Absolutely.

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.

Kung Pao


-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

Hot Hot Heat
May 24, 3:53 p.m.
I'm doing a little experiment right now to find out if a yoga mat and plastic high heels will melt over the course of an afternoon in 104-degree heat inside my car.

I'll let you guys know how that goes.


-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

I'll get right on that.


-- Maggie Downs

Driving Me Crazy
May 19, 2:53 p.m.
It's pretty bad when $3.39 is the cheap gas.

But then again, $3.39 IS the cheap gas compared to the prices on Catalina Island.

I saw this sign there last week and had to take a picture, since I knew nobody would believe me.

Insanity!


Yup. That's a 4. And a 70. Cripes.

When gas costs more than top-shelf gin, it won't be long before I have to put my eggs up for sale.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

Wary


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.)

Ship


We had our cabin towels twisted into various animal shapes, like this monkey here.

Towel


We caught fish off the pier on Catalina Island.

Fish


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.)

Hat


And Mexico was gorgeous:

Countryside


Gorgeous:

Street


GORGEOUS!

Blowhole


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:

Cabin buddies


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.

Cheese

Wha?

-- Maggie Downs

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.


Yeah!



-- Maggie Downs

Fly Girl
April 26, 2:20 p.m.
My column for tomorrow is about a flight I took over Riverside in a B-17.

What you won't read in that piece:

My uncle, Roger Miller, was a navigator in the 730th bomb squadron on a B-17 during World War II. One of the first places he bombed was the town where my grandmother lives in Germany.

That evokes so many emotions inside me, I can't even wrap my head around it. But all my throughts on this are far too complex and blurry right now to work through.

Eventually I'll spill open with it, but not right now.

So back to the bomber, which is a marvel of metal and engines.

B-17


Oddly enough, they had a painting of me on the side:

Pin-up


If I ever decided to declare war on California, it would look a lot like this:

Out the window


Here's one of the M-2 .50 caliber machine guns, pointed at a residential area:

Guns in the sky


Here's the clear bubble on the nose where the bombardier sat:

Bombadier


And here's what the bombardier dropped:

Bombs away!



-- Maggie Downs

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.

Me and my bruddah


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:

Me and Alley


Here's Alley with her stunning sister, Autumn:

Alley and Autumn


And here's Amanda, who has grown into such a gorgeous woman.

Niece


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."

TransAmerica


There I met a waxylicious version of Beyonce:

Waxylicious


I also saw a man made of foil:

Begging


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.

Front Window


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.

Me

-- Maggie Downs

Advance apology
April 21, 5:12 p.m.
No fun and exciting adventures in Palm Springs for me this weekend.

I'm heading up to the north country, Sacramento, land of rain and deciduous trees and ... I don't know, actually. I'm all blank inside when I try to conjure up images of the place.

Why Sacramento? you might ask. (And for good reason.)

Is it because I want to see California's grand capital city?

Nope. Capital cities usually aren't that exciting, a lesson I learned the hard way from Pierre, S.D.

Is it because I'm hoping to see Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Nope. I haven't liked him since "Kindergarten Cop." ("It's not a TU-mor.")

It's because my brother lives in Yuba City, and I haven't seen him in ages. To be exact, I've probably only seen him five times since I was seven years old.

So this will be a good, ol'-fashioned family bonding weekend for the Downs clan. We might even barbecue something or play touch football or whatever else families do.

-- Maggie Downs

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:

B-2: Bless You!


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.

Drag Queen


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!

Bridgette and me


The next event is May 1 at Hamburger Mary's. Are you game?

-- Maggie Downs

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.

VIP Tent


I like the rhythm gymnastics guy who has climbed the rafters on the left.

Dancers


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.)

I Think We're Alone Now? Not Quite.


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.

Fireworks love


And then the festivities were over -- until next year.

Lights

-- Maggie Downs

Alice in White Party Land
April 17, 5:05 p.m.
By 1 a.m. I was on my first drink of Easter Sunday.

It happened to be a little bottle marked "drink me," which is probably why I soon found myself slipping down, down, down through the rabbit hole.

"Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next ..."
-- Lewis Carroll

Bunny and Ballerina


It's difficult to describe the experience of Palm Springs White Party, because that's truly what it is -- an experience.

It's a carnival of sorts -- dancers slathered in glitter, delicous entertainment, elaborate costumes, a pulsating dance floor, an explosion of confetti under sparkling lights.

Crowd


It didn't take long for the night to become curiouser and curiouser!

Here we see very tiny gay men.

White chair


These men fashioned entire outfits out of pleather.

Tan


These. Are. Gay. Robots.

Robots


You'll find all sorts of fascinating and beautiful creatures on the other side of the looking glass, like this gorgeous angel:

Drag Queen


And these sweethearts from San Francisco, who were even cattier and funnier than a certain Cheshire Cat.

Brokeback


Also check out these gorgeous peacock-men-balloon-type things!

Peacock Men


This man who came with his own security guards. Perhaps they were watching over his bling.

Headdress


I also met the official wrestling team of White Party (and possibly the only wrestling team at White Party):

Team


And here's the mayor of Palm Springs, who gets my vote for his dance moves alone:

Mayor of Palm Springs


Then there was me, who danced and laughed and found myself unable to leave this fantastic world.

"Dear, dear! How queer everything is today! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I've been changed in the night?"
-- Lewis Carroll

White Party Kisses


"Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
-- Lewis Carroll

Coming tomorrow: A recap of Sunday's tea dance ...

-- Maggie Downs

Overheard
April 14, 3:11 p.m.
"I'm not like mom. I'm not a robot."

-- Woman, walking like a robot in the parking lot of Ralph's on Sunrise.
-- Maggie Downs

Five Minutes in Palm Springs
April 14, 3:10 p.m.
Oh Baby!

I'm having lunch at Sapporo Palms, a new sushi joint at 330 N. Palm Canyon.

The soundtrack is some smooth, silky-voiced lady singing classic lounge tunes, like "Girl From Ipanema."

There's only one other table in the whole place. Those three are sharing edamame and big platters of rainbow and spider rolls.

I'm working on my own roll, the Oh Baby! -- a fantastic combo of asparagus tempura, crab, avocado and mushroom, all topped with tuna.

All of us are bopping our heads to the bouncy music. We're tapping our feet. One guy is bouncing his chopsticks against his saucer of soy sauce.

When the next song comes on, everybody continues rocking out, while a couple people start humming.

Then we all make eye contact.

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful ...?"

The song playing was "Let It Snow," which coincidentally tops my list of Least Likely Songs to be Played in a Palm Springs Sushi Restaurant.

We laugh and continue eating.


-- Maggie Downs

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."

Fountain Square


And painted pigs. This one lives in the lobby at the Cincinnati Enquirer and was painted by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jim Borgman:

Flying Pig


And the artsy part of Walnut Street, where the homeless and the ballet dancers collide:

Walnut Street


And mornings at Findlay Market, where you can find all sorts of butchers and bakers and cheese makers, as well as mounds of produce:

peppers


And friends who get so drunk, we shave off their eyebrows:

Kyle


And my neighborhood, Hyde Park, which was urban and funky, but homey and quaint at the same time:

Fence


And Cincinnati after dark, which is populated by all sorts of superheroes:

IMG_1612


-- Maggie Downs

The White Socks?
April 11, 4:05 p.m.
I'm told that fashion designer Marc Jacobs is going to attend this year's White Party, along with 27 of his friends.

I'm also told that he's going to be outfitting them in 27 different pieces -- which he designed -- that altogether make one complete outfit.

Now, I don't know what that means exactly. Tiny pieces of white fabric clinging to muscular bodies? White socks, white shoes, white Speedos?

All I know is that it's going to be HOT.

-- Maggie Downs

Confidential
April 11, 2:28 p.m.
If your name is Case and you are my ex-boyfriend, call me.

I accidentally deleted your e-mail with your information and didn't save the number on my cell when you called before.

I still want to get together. I'm just flaky, that's all.

-- Maggie Downs

Girls Rule, Boys Drool
April 10, 10:26 a.m.
Situation: Girls' Night Out

Place: Skitzo Kitty lingerie and adult toy store

Scene: M is in the dressing room, trying on a chainmail dress.

A is checking out an innovative pair of panties that has a string of pearls instead of a crotch.

J and I are checking out the stripper shoes.

A man swaggers into the place.

We shout, "Hey M! Don't come out of the dressing room yet. There's a guy in here."

With as much machismo as he could muster, the guy turns to us and says, "Don't worry. I bet she already sensed my manliness."

That guy never knew how close he was to getting a stiletto in the head.


-- Maggie Downs

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:

Tuna

From Roy's came this yummy ravioli thingy, topped with a pepper sauce, mushrooms and microgreens salad:

Ravioli

Boyfriend fell hard for this prime rib au jus from Black Angus Steakhouse:

Beef


To finish it off, tiny pies from Marie Callender's ...

Pies

... and these pretty tarts from Wally's Desert Turtle:

Tarts

MUCH better than a sandwich.


-- Maggie Downs

A Shore Thing
April 03, 12:45 p.m.
Oh, Dinah, Dinah, Dinah.

It was a crazy fun whirlwind of parties, sun, drinks, dancing and girls, Girls, GIRLS!

But most of all, it was a glorious weekend to be a woman:

Smooch!

This was at the Club Skirts party at the Riviera on a beautiful and sunny Sunday:

Crowd

Everybody lined up to see stars from The L Word and other lesbian celebs -- like Guinevere Turner, shown here, who is simply gorgeous:

Girlcrush

And of course, there was dancing, dancing and more dancing.

Dancer

In fact, I'm a little surprised people could still dance after the parties on Thursday ... and then the parties and concerts on Friday ... and then the big blow-out festivities on Saturday.

Here was the scene at the GirlBar party, held at the Palm Springs COnvention Center:

Disco Ball

Look at all the confetti:

Lasers

And dancers:

Dancing

And more dancers:

Girls! Girls! Girls!

And Carmen Electra (with a random fan throwing her the horns):

Oh, Carmen!

Then there was this neat little trick involving a dancer, Cramen Electra and a hula hoop:

Hula hoops

All in all, a beautiful weekend:

Hot stuff


-- Maggie Downs

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.



-- Maggie Downs

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 maggie.downs@thedesertsun.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.



-- Maggie Downs

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.

Supermodel

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.

Fluffy

This model was twice the size of the other girls. I bet she went home and purged.

Fatty

This here is like Naomi and Tyra on the same runway -- a catfight waiting to happen. Me-OW!

Two dogs

Even dog fashion shows have their groupies.

Drooling

This one was just there for some tail.

Butch

"And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten." -- Memorable quote from "Best in Show"

Desperate model

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.)

All in all, it was another ruff day in PS.

Ruff outfit


-- Maggie Downs

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.

Dude mugged me.

-- Maggie Downs

Sole Survivor
March 24, 4:11 p.m.
Ever since I wrote about my pole-dancing class, I've had inquires about the shoes.

You know, THE shoes. The six-inch platform heels that are a feat of footwear architecture. The stilettos that happen to be sexy as hell.

At first I wondered how I could live with these shoes for two minutes, let alone endure them for a two-hour exercise class.

Now I wonder how I could live without them.

I wear them around the house, at the club, even out for coffee. Sometimes I just lie on the floor with my feet pointed up at the ceiling and just stare at my feet.

These are some shoes.

Sexy shoes

Oh, what a feelin' ...


-- Maggie Downs

Ew
March 22, 1:53 p.m.
I just saw a man all askew in his driver's seat, hunkered over the rearview mirror, popping a zit at a red light.

However, I do give him props for multitasking.


-- Maggie Downs

Caff-fiend
March 15, 12:20 p.m.
Girl walks into a coffee bar.

Realizes this is Starbucks' free coffee day, from 10 a.m. to noon.

Girl hits up the Starbucks on South Palm Canyon. Then the one on North Palm Canyon. Then the one on Sunrise.

Two hours later: Girl has opened the pandora's box of caffeine. She's hopped up on goofballs, writing like crazy, talking like a chipmunk, about to run a marathon.

Girl loves free coffee day.


-- Maggie Downs

Tram Talk
March 13, 5:03 p.m.
Frankly, I was cold and lazy. And that's why I ended up on the slow-crawling shuttle at the College of the Desert street festival on Sunday.

True, it would have been quicker to walk back to my car -- even though it was a good mile away in the farthest possible parking lot at the college.

But then I couldn't have hunkered down in the back seat of the free shuttle, my bags of produce forming a fort around my shivering body.

And I also wouldn't have heard this:

Old Lady #1: Did I tell you that I lost my car at the River the other night after dinner? And I was driving a yellow Hummer!

Old Lady #2: Don't you hate that? Sometimes I don't know if I need to call the police -- or a doctor.


-- Maggie Downs

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:

Corpse 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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

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."


-- Maggie Downs

Overheard
March 01, 08:22 a.m.
At the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival:

"You WILL sit on the pony, and you WILL pretend to like it."
-- Mother, prepping her young daughter for a photo at the pony rides

At the Palm Desert Greek Festival:
"Stop with the 'Opa!' You're not Greek."
-- Wife to husband, in line for gyros

Brunch at Sherman's Deli & Bakery:
"Oh, he's not gay. He's just got great taste."
-- One woman to her friend

-- Maggie Downs

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:

Goat girl

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.


-- Maggie Downs

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?

Another stranger
(I wasn't all bad that night. Note how I'm drinking water.)

And here's a stranger, wrapped all over my friend.

Huh?

And then there's this incredibly tall person I don't know:

In Da Club

This ever happen to anyone else?


-- Maggie Downs

Day at Date Fest
February 20, 11:32 a.m.
I spent most of Friday at the National Date Festival, which I was insanely excited about because I love me some dates.

Oddly enough, I didn't consume anything with dates in it at the festival. But I did come away with a belly full of grease and cotton candy. You gotta love fair food.

Actually, you gotta love everything about this festival.

Heh. Butts.
Pork Butts

Funny sign at the petting zoo.
No fingers!

This little guy was my favorite. I imagine he's saying, "Baa, dude."
Baa, dude.

I was actually a little traumatized by the ostrich races, because the ostriches were disturbingly upset about being ridden. I don't think there animals were meant for racing.
Ostrich jockeys

This little toddler went flying.
Dear God

Can't do this in Ohio -- here I am on the hump of a camel.
Magge and camel

-- Maggie Downs

Textual healing
February 14, 08:09 a.m.
Cupid's at it again.

I just received a very weird, very anonymous text message -- presumably for Valentine's Day.

"lemme lik ur face for vday. holla."

Uh, no. But thanks for the offer.


-- Maggie Downs

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?

-- Maggie Downs

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 ...

I should point this out to my co-worker.


-- Maggie Downs

Get This Party Started ... Eventually
February 08, 5:36 p.m.
I'm at this party, sitting at the leather-trimmed bar, sucking gin off ice cubes with that little red straw.

It is here I'm trapped.

This is one of those parties where everyone promises that it's going to get really good, even though all signs point the other way.

"Oh, you just wait. In a couple hours, this place will be rockin'."
"Any time now, this party is gonna be cra-zay."
"Just give it some time, and this will be one legendary bash."

There's nothing less fun than waiting for fun. And I didn't have the time, energy or money to wait -- especially when gin was a pricey $7. For the bad stuff.

While my boyfriend is in the bathroom, a man says I remind him of Carrie Bradshaw. Yeah, we're both women and we wear shoes. That's about where the similarity ends.

Then the DJ spins, "Play That Funky Music (White Boy.)" One white boy, indeed, tries to polish the rust off his funk.

I've gotta get out of this place.

Problem is, I made an appearance at this thing for two specific people -- and one is standing by the front door, while the other is posted by the back exit. They can't see me leave.

My boyfriend and I huddle like we're coordinating a difficult football play. He watches the front door while I cover the rear.

Within five minutes, the person at the back door leaves his post and the two of us are running, running, running outside, into the parking lot and into the car.

"That was close," he gasps.

I spent so many years sneaking into parties. But I have to say, this is the first time I've ever had to sneak out of one.


-- Maggie Downs

Bloomin' Fun
February 02, 08:48 a.m.
There are photos that werre taken during my tour of Gubler Orchids in Landers.

This is where baby orchids are born:

Orchid buds

Someday, one of these might be in your corsage:

Sprouts

Pretty lady slipper:

Ladyslipper

This picture looks so zen:

Purple and white

Gorgeous frilly blooms:

Corsage-to-be

So. Many. Colors.

Bright blooms

-- Maggie Downs

Shop Talk
February 01, 5:00 p.m.
Lessons learned during Shopping Trip with the Boyfriend 2006:

- If you have to question yourself about a puffy vest, you shouldn't buy one.

- That goes for any other form of fashion poison, really.

- My boyfriend honestly doesn't know if the brown Sketchers match the black blazer or not.

- That guy who was in the dressing room area, scratching his bum almost ritualistically with a plastic hanger? He was disturbing.

- That employee who will have to put that hanger away later? I feel sorry for him.


-- Maggie Downs

Happy trails to me
January 31, 3:25 p.m.
Ever since I moved here, people have been telling me about how awesome the trails are around here.

They're also, sadly, not well marked for the uninitiated.

That's why I joined up with the Coachella Valley Hiking Club last weekend for a seven-mile trek, which promised to give me the best of what Mecca Hills has to offer. And oh, it did.

Here's the group, heading through the canyons:

Canyons

And here's everyone, heading for the big split:

Hiking

Here's an ocotillo, silhouetted against the sun:

Sunshine

Hopefully all the wildflowers were saw are a sign of what to expect this spring. Check out this pretty desert mallow:

Vibrant

And this was my very favorite thing I saw that day. I'm not sure what kind of plant that is, but look at how it pushes through that incredibly smooth desert pavement:

Perseverance

-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

Behind the Scenes
January 18, 3:43 p.m.
Here's me, tired but ready for a long night on the red carpet at the Palm Springs International Film Festival:

Maggie

Here's where I had to stand:

Feet

Here are a bunch of reporters climbing all over each other to get to Charlize Theron:

Climbing

And here she is! She almost tripped over some guy who climbed under the ropes and was crouched in the middle of the red carpet:

Charlize

Here's my favorite gay cowboy, Jake Gyllenhaal:

Jake

In this photo, you can tell how much he wants me:

Jake

The end.

Tune in for more next year.


-- Maggie Downs

Overheard
January 17, 5:14 p.m.
"I need a waiter! I need to be filled with more meat! MEAT MEAT MEAT!"

-- Male patron at Picanha Churrascaria Brazilian Grill & Bar in Palm Desert, where waiters bring swords laden with meat to the table every few minutes until they are begged to stop.

-- Maggie Downs

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:
Looking up

Here's the balloon that plopped down next to us after we landed:
Landing

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.
Balloon race

I love thinking that the driver of this balloon is like, "Get out of the fast lane!"
Beep Beep!


-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

Happy New Year!
January 02, 9:41 p.m.
Once More

-- Maggie Downs

Dear John
December 30, 6:11 p.m.
Dear 2005,

I'm so done with you.

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.

yaysurgery

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.

Memorial 010

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.

Memorial 008

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.

Let's still be friends,
Maggie


-- Maggie Downs

Smug
December 29, 5:31 p.m.
Sunset

At this time last year, my car was snowed in for 10 days.


-- Maggie Downs

Visitors
December 28, 12:19 p.m.
My friends from Los Angeles came to visit me for Christmas. They're the kind of people who speak in capital letters.

"This place is GORGEOUS."
"I mean, look at the ARCHITECTURE."
"It's so RETRO and FUN and KITSCHY."

After four months of living here, I've already gotten used to the beauty of the place. It's normal to see sweeping expanses of blue sky, multi-hued desert plants, fierce sunshine.

It's the way Catherine Zeta Jones becomes just another girl after so many T-Mobile commercials. It takes a little work now to realize that kind of beauty isn't normal.

I don't register the towering palm trees, the pretty cacti, the fat-bloomed roses so much anymore. It's just my yard.

But all that changes when my friends come to visit. It's all this "GORGEOUS! STUNNING! BEAUTIFUL!" And suddenly I see the place through new eyes.

There's a competitive part of me that always tries to create a cage match between where I live and where my friends live. I want to showcase the best of my home; I want my friends to recognize.

In this case, Palm Springs won the battle easily.

Following a late-night dinner at Matchbox, we enjoyed Christmas Eve cocktails at The Parker. We sat outside, under a brilliant canopy of stars and warmed our feet by the fire pit.

"This place is so AMAZING, and L.A. is so BORING," the friends said.

"We should MOVE."


-- Maggie Downs

A Visit From St. Nick: Vegas Style
December 27, 3:15 p.m.
Dirty Girl

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."
-- Maggie Downs

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.

Not yet, anyway.


-- Maggie Downs

I Spy a Carrot
December 12, 11:01 p.m.
This afternoon at the health food store, a man accused me of being a spy.

No, I don't get it either.

Did they think I was a secret agent from a rival juice bar? Was this granola espionage? Am I the Mata Hari of tofu?

Or maybe right now I'm just pretending to not be a dangerous and covert, albeit organic, spy.

I'll never tell.


-- Maggie Downs

Quite a Tamale!
December 08, 3:40 p.m.
With my sickness and everything, I forgot to post the funniest thing from last weekend's Tamale Festival in Indio.

One of the vendors was yelling:

"Eat my tamales today, be speaking Spanish by tomorrow!"


-- Maggie Downs

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.

I could marry this climate.


-- Maggie Downs

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!"


-- Maggie Downs

Name Game
December 01, 12:57 p.m.
I like to escort things through my life with custom nicknames.

Bootsy is my iPod.

Thisbe is my potted Christmas tree.

The chickens I rescued from a research lab were the Twin Beaks -- Peep and Special Agent Dale Cooper.

My current pet is a cat named Kung Pao Kitten, though his name often mutates into new monikers: Mr. Meowgi, Katmandu, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, Notorious C.A.T.

Now I need to come up with a name for my new car, a PT Cruiser, which replaces Rhonda the Honda. (Puh-lease. Like you don't name your car?)

The suggestions so far:

* Bruiser the Cruiser
* Tom Cruiser
* Penelope Cruiser
* Carson

Any thoughts? Other ideas? E-mail me at maggie.downs@thedesertsun.com.

Choose carefully. I'll go with the name that garners the most votes, which means my car's fate is in your hands.


-- Maggie Downs

Searching High and Low
December 01, 12:37 p.m.
maggie1

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 maggie.downs@thedesertsun.com.

-- Maggie Downs

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

-- Maggie Downs

I am the best!
November 29, 09:38 a.m.
You are the best!

My car floormats said so.


-- Maggie Downs

Baby, You Can Drive My Car
November 29, 09:36 a.m.
Zoom zoom

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!

-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

The Honeymoon is Over
November 25, 1:21 p.m.
Talk about a Thanksgiving to remember.

Nick and Jessica have split -- and for reals this time.

If those two wacky kids can't make it, what hope is there for the rest of us?


-- Maggie Downs

Gobble, Gobble!
November 24, 5:37 p.m.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Hope you're having a wonderful and safe holiday.

And for all you visiting Canucks, happy Thursday!
-- Maggie Downs

On such a winter's day
November 22, 09:36 a.m.
"California Dreamin'" is a fantastic song for Cincinnati in winter, where all the leaves really are brown and the sky certainly is gray.

But here? I don't get it. I can't identify with it. I can't comprehend it. The sky is blue and every day is a constant blanket of sunshine.

So why am I hearing the song 4,712 times a day? It's on the radio, on the jukeboxes, on the karaoke. It's everywhere.

It's not like any of us are longing for California anymore on such a winter's day. We ARE safe and warm. We're here.

My friend in Key Largo said it reminds her of the island songs that play constantly around her.

"Do you know how much I hear Jimmy Buffet?" she said through clenched teeth. "Yeah, yeah. We're wasted away again in Margaritaville. Whatever."

I think we got the better end of the deal.
-- Maggie Downs

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."

Bichon: "Thirty-five."

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.

-- Maggie Downs

Rhonda the Honda: Found!
November 15, 10:05 a.m.
The Desert Hot Springs Police recovered my car in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

I can't thank them enough. Hope they enjoy my firstborn child.

Sadly, the car's in bad shape. I mean, I've never seen a Honda cry before. And this one? Weeping.

I'll give all the messy details in my column this Thursday in the Desert Sun.


-- Maggie Downs

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.

-- Maggie Downs

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.

Sometimes loudly. Sometimes quietly. Always loco.


-- Maggie Downs

Stolen Moments
November 09, 5:11 p.m.
Man, you guys have had everything stolen but your hearts.

In a recent column I asked what thieves have taken from you -- and I didn't anticipate such a whopping response.

The list includes:

Cars -- 7
Various items inside cars -- 27
Purses -- 3
Lawn mower -- 2
Purebred dog -- 1
Lawn flamingos -- 2
Wallets -- 4
Concrete geese -- 3
CDs -- 47,173
Identities -- 2

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.

It's really sad to think that we could.


-- Maggie Downs

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."

"Where?"

"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.
-- Maggie Downs

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 finally thought I was safe.

I was wrong.


-- Maggie Downs

Gilda's Club
October 26, 5:56 p.m.
I'm headed to the Casino Night benefit for Gilda's Club Desert Cities at Casino Morongo tomorrow night.

Entertainment, wine, food, gambling ... AND a great cause? What's not to like?

If you're there, make sure to introduce yourself to me.
-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

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 maggie.downs@thedesertsun.com.

-- Maggie Downs

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


-- Maggie Downs

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.

Michelle Wie should thank me.


-- Maggie Downs

Desert Hottie Springs
October 14, 3:36 p.m.
My new favorite Web site reminds me of those old Reese's Peanut Butter Cups commercials -- "You got chocolate in my peanut butter!"

It's a mash-up of Google Maps and HotOrNot.com.

Two great tastes that go together, indeed.

All you have to do is enter your zipcode and your sexual preferences, and the program can gives you a simple map of available people in your neighborhood.

I can't advocate seriously using this thing to find a mate -- mostly because I'm still giggling about the guy in search of "party peoples" -- but wow, is this ever a fun time-waster.

Try it here: http://hotmaps.frozenbear.com. You won't be sorry -- unless your photo is already on there.


-- Maggie Downs

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.


-- Maggie Downs

Overheard
October 10, 6:43 p.m.
Guy hitting on woman during Village Fest:

Your boyfriend couldn't love you. If he loved you so much, why isn't he here?
What? You're engaged?

(Looks at woman's engagement ring)

Well, now it's obvious he doesn't love you. That has to be the smallest diamond I've ever seen. You know, that doesn't even look like a diamond -- it might be a ziamond.


-- Maggie Downs

Sign sighted
October 07, 6:22 p.m.
I'm still a little confused about this sign in Palm Desert:

"NEW BALLS OPEN DURING SEEDING."

Huh? Enlighten me, people. Or just entertain me with other funny sign sightings.

E-mail maggie.downs@thedesertsun.com
-- Maggie Downs

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 maggie.downs@thedesertsun.com.


-- Maggie Downs

Bar conversation
October 05, 12:01 p.m.
Scene: A crowded bar on Palm Canyon. My friend and I sit at the last two empty chairs at a table full of drunk guys, visiting from Seattle.

Leering guy: Hey, you're sexy.

Me: Thanks.

Guy: Your dress is sexy.

Me: Thanks.

Guy: Your nose piercing is sexy.

Me: Thanks.

Guy: You single?

Me: Um, no.

Guy: You're still sexy. I'm in love with you.

Me: No, you're not.

Guy: Oh. (pauses) Is your friend single? She's sexy.



-- Maggie Downs

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 maggie.downs@thedesertsun.com.




-- Maggie Downs

Overheard
October 03, 5:52 p.m.
One woman to another at Trader Joe's grocery store in Cathedral City:

"Of course he's not nice. He's an attorney."


-- Maggie Downs

Seen
September 30, 1:39 p.m.
A peddler on the side of I-10, near Agua Caliente Casino, held this sign:
"Last chance to help a bum for the next 500 feet."


-- Maggie Downs

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 maggie.downs@thedesertsun.com
-- Maggie Downs

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.

Desert fish = brain hurts.

-- Maggie Downs


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