Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back In The Desert

Back from Florida, and it sure is good to be home.

It was nice spending time with my brother and his wife (even though among the things that Santa left in my stocking was Axe Body Wash and Mitchum Anti-Perspirant) (I mean, really? Really??) (Like, we're related, aren't we?).

But I think I might have been a little annoying to spend the holidays with. I spent no small amount of time being a wee bit mopey. And about every other topic of conversation I introduced was about something That Cowboy said or did or that we did together or whatever.

And then there was the night when, standing alone overlooking the retention pond behind my brother's house--which may or may not be home to an alligator--I was moved to tears thinking about how I have never felt about anyone the way I feel about That Cowboy.

For you see, I'm in love.

And I am thankful that that didn't happen with me until my mid-forties. Middle Aged Love is a wonderful thing. You know who you are, all the good stuff as well as all the bad stuff. And you're good at sizing up other people, too. And you've had plenty of experiences of thinking that it was Love knocking at your door only to discover after you rush to open it that it was a vagrant or a trick-or-treater or a process server or someone selling Amway products or someone looking for your upstairs neighbor but definitely not you. When you're in the middle of your journey through life, you just get this peaceful certainty that This Is It It's Finally Here.

And there's no great expectations attached to it. No hopes and dreams to project. Just a nice humble, "So want to do something this weekend?"

And none of the loading down of your beloved with all of those expectations. "I hope he surprises me a romantic weekend away!" Instead, you roll over in bed and cuddle up next to him and feel this sublime joy and appreciation of the simple heft and warmth of his body next to yours. Everything else (That Cowboy took the opportunity to clean out my car while I was in Florida) is gravy.

And it's not about having an arm ornament, although I think we do make a handsome couple. And it's not about showing him off like he's some kind of trophy buck you've brought back from the North Woods. And mostly, it's not about what you get out of it. Rather, it's all about an opportunity to give: to give the love that you've been cupping in your hands all these years, safe in the knowledge that this precious gift will be appreciated and cherished and its value will be immediately recognized.

In the past, I've usually done a Year End Wrap Up here on Singletails. And taken time to devise a New Years' Resolution for myself. Not sure that I'll be doing that this year. I'm having a hard time remembering the details of last month, let alone the last twelve of them. And the future means tonight, when I'll head over to That Cowboy's place, just across the Wash, and we'll exchange presents. It's all about the Right Now for me. Who knows what the future holds, and the past is just a meditation whereby we might discern the working of God's hand guiding us.

And now, I'm off to see what I got for Christmas. And I can't wait to give That Cowboy the gifts I got (and made!) for him.

Politics Of The Scary

Y'know what would be cool?

If, soon after his inauguration, President Obama paints the White House black. And invited all the living former members of the Weather Underground to a reception at the White House. And drove a big truck up to the Federal Reserve Bank, loaded it with hundred dollar bills, and drove around Southwest DC tossing them out by the fist full.

It would be great if all those right wingers were given an opportunity to experience what I've gone through for the last eight years, as I've seen my worst fears not just realized but surpassed.

Although this whole Rick Warren thing is really pissing me off. Although getting married--gay or otherwise--has never been something I've aspired to, having that compared to incest is really really insulting. But if Obama rids us of DADT and shepherds the Employment Non-Discrimination Act through Congress in his first hundred days, I'll relax about that a lot.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Bad news yesterday at the College of the Desert Architecture Club barbecue: I won't know what I got on theTechnical Drafting final exam until sometime next week. (The waiting, as they say, is the hardest part.) The magic number here is 91. If I got 91 or better, I get an A in the class, albeit a low A. If I don't then I won't be able to claim I got straight A's in my first semester at College of the Desert.

Here's the roster of the grades that I do know...

Intro to Construction Management: A
Intro to Architectural Professions: A
Elementary Spanish: A
History of Architecture: A
California Building Codes: A

But this bad news was offset by a few things.

Okay, by every other thing in my life right now.

Marcos' dad's guacamole was amazingly good. (So good, in fact, that I didn't even mind that people turned up their noses at my selection of side dishes from Jensen's Supermarket, because frankly, so did I: that guacamole rocked.) It is so beautiful here in the Coachella Valley right now. We had two days of rain. As in, actual rain. As in, actual drops of water descending from the sky. On the nightly local news, they were downright giddy. And who wouldn't be after having to report night after night after night on whether tomorrow was going to be Sunny or Partly Sunny. But yesterday, the sun was out and on tops of snow covered mountains fluffy white clouds sat like white cats on white satin cushions, a charming backdrop for the palm trees. Truly, I live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. And That Cowboy found work! He does kitchen and bath renovations, and for the past few weeks, new jobs were just not coming in, resulting in cashflow issues and also him getting a little sulky.

P'r'aps I should tell you all a little bit about That Cowboy, huh?


He grew up in Texas and North Africa, where his father worked in the oil industry. He speaks fluent french and a little arabic, and when he speaks English, it's with a pronounced Texas drawl. He one got first place in a rodeo event. Before Palm Springs, he lived in Colorado and Montana. He drives a big white pickup truck that always seems to be on the verge of breaking down. For many years, he was a devout mormon, and it caused him a great deal of pain when he was excommunicated after he came out. But, he now seems to be a mormon who is finding expression of his faith in the context of the Episcopal Church, as he's been coming with me on Sunday mornings to the great little church I've been attending here. That Cowboy and I talk about God and such not infrequently, and I love that. I've gained an appreciation of mormon spirituality of late, a faith I heretofore only associated with odd undergarments.

Here's an example: mormons believe that before you are born, you sit up there looking at your life as it will be lived out, with all the joys and sorrows and pain and heartache loves and losses, and you choose affirmatively to be thus embodied as you are born into this earthly existence, without any memory of the pre-ordained life you are going to lead, but only the secure knowledge that it will be a good one. I think that's one of the most beautiful and sublime concepts I've heard anywhere, and I've decided to adopt it as my own.

To be sure, the Mormon Church is not particularly popular right now amongst the Gays in California, which brings its own challenges for That Cowboy, but he manages it with pluck and aplomb. And don't get me started on this whole gay marriage thing. Just don't.

I have fallen behind in my shaving of the head and the face in the past few weeks. Lo these many years, I've been fairly religious about shaving the head and the face on alternating days, but lately, I've been skipping a day in between. In part, that's because what's the fun of being a full-time student if you're not a little bit shambling and disheveled. But also, I idly mentioned to That Cowboy how nice it would be to have an outdoor shower on my patio, and he went and built me one. So here I am, a week before Christmas, when snow blankets that not-quite-real realm we here refer to as "Back East," and I'm taking a shower out on my patio, looking up at the snow-covered mountains and the palm trees and such. But, as I don't yet have a shaving mirror installed out there, shaving only takes place when I take a bath, and outdoor showering is such a wonderful experience that I'm only doing that when I decide that I "really need to shave."

And it's Christmas.

Today, I needs must be running around to put the final touches on my Christmas gifts. We're privileging creativity over extravagance this year, and I'm pretty happy with my gift selections, and I hope those on my Christmas list will be happy with their presents.

Which I'll be dropping in the mail, of course.

I'm a bit bitter about the fact that my first Christmas here in the Coachella Valley won't be spent in the Coachella Valley. I will be jetting off to Venice, Florida, to spend the holiday with my brother and his wife.



I should like Florida, right? It's got palm trees, I like palm trees. It's got beaches, I like beaches. But it's like, you take a bunch of meth-addled wacko rightwingers, the exteme elderly (the median age in the city my brother lives is 73), bunches of cuban exiles who think that any day now they're going to be marching back into their mansions in Havana and kick out those filthy campesinos who they kept locked in hopeless poverty and illiteracy while they lived there a half a century ago, and some of the most mindless gays that you'll find anywhere, put'em all together in a big pot, and stir. And mosquitos. Lots of mosquitos. And feral hogs. If you want me, I'll be out on the lanai, chug-a-lugging Dran-O.

But, I'm off to Florida.

When I get back, I'll have a month before the Spring semester starts up. In an attempt to get some kind of inflow of cash, I've decided to find out where the local offices of Hard Labor Ready might be and spend my days hoping for work. I've applied at the local Ho(t)me(n) Depot, but now is not the time to be looking for retail work. In my last go'round with Hard Labor Ready, I got some slightly-better-paying side jobs, and I'm hoping something similar will unfold. About the only other employment opportunity would be working the front desk at one of the many gay clothing optional resorts that grace our fair desert city. The pay at those places is really bad, and the hours--basically all night long selling lube and renting porn--would kill me.

And, I'm looking forward to Finally. Getting. Back. To. Going. To. The. Gym.

That Cowboy and I joke about how I am transforming, before his eyes, into a creature we will call "Blobbo." Just yesterday I amused myself by popping open the snap on my pants with the tiniest flex of the muscles in my lower abdomen. To be sure, since it's cool enough for me to be making meatloaf and scalloped potatoes for dinner, I'm my own worst enemy there. But still, I go to the gym not because I still entertain hopes as I once did about growing to Jon Claud Van Damm proportions, but because I enjoy it and it's nice to see the results that I do manage to achieve.

Anyway. I've got plenty to do today, so I best be at it. I realize full well that my posting here has dropped off considerably. In part, that's because I've been so busy, what with school and That Cowboy and such. But, too, I've been thinking that there can't be that much of a market for me going on and on about how beautiful my life is, how full of simple and wonderful moments. How content and at peace I am these days. How blessed. How truly blessed.

I mean, who wants to hear about all that crap, right?

But anyway, despite my exile to Florida for the holidays, I'm hoping to have good ones. And I hope that yours are wonderful, too.

Monday, December 15, 2008

(Place Holder)

Four more finals and a "situacíon oral" in Spanish and I'm done for the semester. Tuesday night I'll be free and clear. And I'm sure looking forward to reporting to you all what my final grades are.

I think that for the first time in my life, I'm an A student!

Friday, November 28, 2008


This Thanksgiving, I am nothing but thankful.

I'm thankful that I just filled up my gas tank and it cost me less than $30.00.

I'm thankful that everybody liked the food I made--braised brussels sprouts, tex mex roasted sweet potatoes, my stepmother's famous baked pineapple, bread stuffing--at the Thanksgiving Day celebration that That Cowboy and I were invited to.

I'm thankful for time in a hot tub after the Thanksgiving feast.

I'm thankful for the very first kumquat on the kumquat tree on my patio.

I'm thankful that my hard work is paying off and I'm getting good great grades in all my classes.

I'm thankful that right off the bat I found a great little Episcopal church here in Palm Springs, The Church of St. Paul In The Desert. Although it looks like I'll have to wait until Christmas Eve for them to bring out the incense.

I'm thankful that I live here in Palm Springs. Every new day I spend here seems to serve as further proof that coming here smacks of destiny. On Thanksgiving Day proper, we had rain in the morning. Almost an inch! By Palm Springs standards, that's a flood of all but biblical proportions. All day long, the sky was just magnificent, with the clouds riding down the slopes of the San Jacinto and Santa Rosita mountains.

I'm thankful for the life I'm cobbling together here. I spent the morning working at the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission down in Indio, in a neighborhood in Indio where you probably wouldn't want to run out of gas. My job was sorting out the dry-goods store room, putting like with like and assembling bags of Thanksgiving appropriate groceries when requested. It felt so much like how I've spent so many thanksgiving days gone by: making turkey dinner with all the fixings for the clients of syringe exchange programs where I've worked. This weekend, there's an art festival in town and That Cowboy and I are gonna head over and check it out. Next weekend, it's back to Indio for the Tamale Festival. (I only have a vague idea of what a tamale is, but after next weekend, I'll know.) Last weekend, we did a field trip out to the Salton Sea, a place of strange and terrible beauty. That Cowboy is building me an outdoor shower for my patio. That'll be a nice way to unwind, feeling the warm water run over me with the moon caught in the fronds of the date palms overhead. And I'm starting to think about finding some volunteer work to do and I'm looking for a part time job, ways that I can meet people and give a little bit more structure to my weekly schedule.

And I'm thankful for That Cowboy. He's thoughtful, kind, handsome, handy, reflective, fun, considerate, honest, hard-working, inspired, spirited, patient, easy-going, sexy, as taken with me as I am with him, and he's got a great dog. I wasn't looking for a man when I moved here to the desert. But such an odd change has taken place: whereas previously, my life was a private conversation I had with myself, now it's become a dialog. For perhaps the first time in my life--that I can remember anyway--I don't feel like I'm facing the world alone. Before, relationships have always been frought: what is he feeling? where is this going? should I tell him about this? how much of myself do I reveal? will I get hurt? what should I think about that?... None of that. Just a peaceful, easy feeling. Him in his workboots and Wrangler's, the nape of his sunburned neck damp with sweat always. The two of us, side by side, or across the table from each other, telling stories about the people we've know or the places we've been or talking about God or music or art or the desert or what we might do this weekend or dogs or hiking or work or building stuff or architecture or food or cooking or what we don't like in people or things the gays do or how it's always either sunny or partly sunny here in Palm Springs or movies or horses or bears or wolves or projects we want to start in on or what we saw on television or read on the internet or my latest obsession (which would be vinegaroons). Or how much we like being boyfriends with each other. It's all just working out so well, even though to my mind there's no work involved. I don't know that I could ask for a better man. I'm sure gonna do what I can to keep him around.

I am thankful for the gift of my life. I wouldn't want any other one. Not changed by one jot.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vampire Gets Girl. Werewolf Spurned. Again.

On Friday, That Cowboy and I joined with several hundred tween girls to catch the premier of "Twilight," the coming of age romance movie about a young girl adjusting to life in her new hometown who starts up a thing with a boy who is one of a clan of local vampires. We loved the movie overall. It reminded me a lot of the kids I used to hang out with on the porch of Starbucks in Doylestown, PA. And it was beautifully shot and had some really good moments.

But after the movie, I, of course, was grumbling. Y'see, when the eternal question--who's cooler, vampires or werewolves?--is posed, I come down squarely on the side of the werewolves. And in "Twilight," there is, indeed, a werewolf, a devestatingly hawt native american boy who rebuilds the engine of the girls cool red pickup truck. To show her gratitude, she offers to drive him to school, and offer he can't accept as he goes to school on the res. And yet she falls for the vampire boy, he of the pale skin and the lip-gloss several shades too dark.

Alas, it is ever thus. "Oh I'll sit right here while you play the piano" is chosen over "Let's run naked through the woods."

Me? I'm a werewolf guy. Hunert percent.

It's my understanding that in the trilogy of books on which Twilight is based, Bella, the girl, does indeed get together with Jacob, the werewolf boy, in the second book. That may be worth reading.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Well Now When I Was Your Age, We Did Our Demonstratin' Different-Like.

Like, yeah.

One-time Sweetheart of the Doc Martens and Slogan-Sticker-Festooned-MC-Jacket Wearing Set, Peter Staley sums up some of my thoughts regarding the recent wave of Post-Prop 8 Activism pretty nicely.

Long did we agonize back in the day about up-coming demos: what look would our graphics have? What were our demands? What chants would we use? Who would lead the chants? What was our strategy? Would there be civil disobedience? Who would marshall the demonstration? Did we have legal observers?

The absolute worst thing that can happen is for passerby to comment, "I guess those people are angry about something" and move on. You want to move those passersby to come on over to your side. Think of the graphics for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike: simple, direct, poignant.

And unfortunately, protests here in Palm Springs have been marred by an assault on a pro-Prop 8 woman carrying a pretty pathetic looking styrofoam cross. Ever'body needs to read Ghandi's On Non-Violence and King's Letter From A Birmingham Jail pronto. To sum it up: we need to be better people than them.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The North Wind Doth Blow

Slept with the windows wide open last night. Perfect sleeping weather.

This morning, as I was driving to church with That Cowboy, it was raining. As in, there were drops of rain about two to three inches apart on the windshield. It was blowy and cool, about 60°.

I asked That Cowboy if this was pretty much what winter was like here in Palm Springs.

"Yup," he answered, "this is what you can expect from a day in February."

I was laughing hysterically--I mean really hysterically--for about five minutes. Just cackling away. Howling. Maniacal.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Here In Palm Springs

Have I mentioned how much I love it here in Palm Springs?

Here's yet another reason why. This weekend is Palm Springs Leather Pride Weekend. It is so not fabulous, humongous, exciting, and and exhilarating. It's basically a half block of Sunny Dunes roped off and filled with vendors and such. The most risque thing going on is consumption of alcoholic beverages. It's pretty easy to spot the sanfranciscans and angelinos in the crowd: they're all dressed up like it's something special going on. As I've noted so often here, in the desert, we don't try too hard.

Today on the phone, I was bemoaning to Nephtali how there's no good bookstore here in the Coachella Valley, just Barnes & Noble and Borders. Naphtali responded that "well that sounds like an opportunity for some enterprising entrepreneur to just walk into."

"Right," I said, "And the key word in that sentence is 'enterprising.' If there's an enterprise happening here, I'll be out by the pool. Let me know when it passes. That's sort of how the gemeinschafft works here."

[Gemeinschaft: That's a fun word to know. It's usually translated from the german as "community," although it has more of a sense of living in close companionship with. Thus, it evades the problem with the way the word "community" is tossed around in English to mean a demographic group. And also, it sounds like ge-Mine Shaft, so certain ears tend to prick up when you toss it out.]

'T'is true, our Leather Street Fair is a laid-back, humble little affair. It probably wouldn't be worth the trip even from Hemet were it not for the fact that today, like most days here, was a spectacularly beautiful sunny day, and down at the western end of the street Mount San Jacinto rises majestically making for a beautiful backdrop while you enjoy your sausage sandwich and watch the many hot men.

Last night, friends of That Cowboy were in town, and the two of us were treated to dinner at Wang's Of The Desert. I hadn't been to Wang's before. It's one of the most popular places here. When we arrived, the place was packed. Just swarming with the gays. Wall to wall. We were seated--reaching our table by walking across this little bridge over an indoor koi pond which brought to my mind the Three Billygoats Gruff and that troll so I said "trip-trap trip-trap trip-trap" as I crossed--and the food arrived, and it was wildly disappointing. I mean, it was just like the food served at chinese restaurants throughout this great land of ours, only greasier and with less flavor. In my newyorky way, I wondered it that was the whole point ("they do this incredible recreation of take-out chinese food!!!"), but duh, it's just the Palm Springs Way. As in, "Gosh, what kind of food will we serve at our restaurant? Oh I know, people like chinese food, so let's serve chinese food. Now that that's settled, I'm going to lay out by the pool."

That Cowboy's friends are house-flippers, and they were in town looking for places on the market. This morning, we went driving around La Mesa and Las Palmas and North Palm Springs looking at what worked and what doesn't. My eye is getting a little bit more discerning, I think. It used to be that anything moderne totally put lead in my pencil, but any more, that's not always the case. There are a lot of "great-lines-bad-design-decisions" out there. Also, there's the whole trap of "LOOK-AT-ME!-I'M-MODERNE!-SEE??!!-SEE??!!-YOU-CAN-REALLY-TELL!!!". The best places seem to have been renovated with minimal effort, so subtle that you could drive right by them and not notice. But if you do look, you slowly come to appreciate the interesting materials and finishings used, albeit from a restrained palette. Places that would just bring a slight smile to your lips as you pulled into the driveway after a long day at work.

And now, I'm gonna put on my leather pants and get ready to meet up with That Cowboy for dinner tonight, after which we'll wander aimlessly around the Leather Pride Street Festival until we decide we've seen enough for one day and head home to watch some telly-bision before heading to bed.

I really like it here.

A lot.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Morning After

I didn't have to wait too long to vote yesterday. When I got to the polls yesterday morning about 10, there were about ten people in the place, completing the arrows on their paper ballots. In Pennsylvania and NYC, I voted with machines with levers, so this art project thing was a little off putting. I was worried that I'd mess it. I'm in the middle of mid-terms at school, so as I'm in that mode, it felt just like taking a test.

As I made my way to the lockbox to insert my ballot in the slot and receive my "I Voted" sticker that would get me free coffee at Starbucks, I noticed that the other voters in the place were all older african-americans and the gays. We were all smiling at each other, almost conspiratorially. Although in retrospect, we weren't smiling because we felt we were doing something wrong, we were smiling because we felt we were doing something significant, that we were making history.

For the black voters, it was all about voting for the first african-american who would become President of the United States of America. For me, it was voting so that gay men and lesbians would be able to have their relationships recognized by the State of California. Like them, I would have been surprised and dubious if it had been suggested to me at some point in the past that I would have the opportunity to do this.

I am old enough to remember when it was very much Not Okay to be a homo. I remember when gaydar was a tool of survival, particularly on the job when if it was known that you were a shirt-raiser, you wouldn't be getting any raises. I remember when a four guys carrying lacrosse sticks piled out of a car in the middle of the West Village (!) calling me fuckin' queer. I remember when Bush 41's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Louis Sullivan, said on Nightline that AIDS in fact was not a matter of great national concern because it didn't and wouldn't be affecting americans other than homosexuals and those living in the "inner cities." I remember when checking into a hotel room with another man and asking for a room with one bed felt like a Really Big Deal and if we were tired or we weren't sure that there were any other motels around we would just let it pass and let them give us two full beds. I remember when Tony Randall's character on the short-lived sit-com "Love, Sidney" was rewritten from him being gay to just being this guy who lived alone and took an unusual though non-romantic interest in the young single mother living in the next apartment. I remember the preacher at Jack Schmidt's funeral saying from the pulpit that God saw homosexuality as an abomination while Jack's partner Rick quietly sobbed.

Not that it was all horror and torment. Or even mostly. There was, of course, a wonderfully fun aspect of being on the outside of american society looking in, of secretly laughing up your sleeve at the clueless straights. I once actually overheard some guy say, "You mean RuPaul is a woman???" And when you gave a little wink to the guy at the airport check-in counter having detected a certain way he had in pronouncing those sibilant S's, it might get you an upgrade on your seat.

And, of course, I am nothing if not ambivalent about this whole idea of gay marriage. When friends said that they were at a wedding a few weekends ago, it took me a while to realize that it was two men who were tying the knot. Too, I still think it devalues relationships that gay men do amazingly well--friendships--in favor of those that we're not so good at. But that said, I am warming to the idea.

But here I was, voting No on Proposition 8.

Surely we'd win the day. Surely a simple majority of the California electorate would see through the hateful, lying, fear-mongering ads run by proponents of Prop 8. Surely this wonderful "live and let live" state that I moved across the country to call home would be better than that.

But no.

The results, 52-48 % in favor, are such a kick in the stomach.

Really? Really??

So yeah. It's really cool that Black is the New President and all, but I'm not quite celebratory. In fact, I'm feeling a little vindictive. At Starbucks this morning, my blood boiled when I noticed that the nice older straight couple in line ahead of me were wearing wedding rings. And it's particularly stinging that one of the factors leading to the ratification of Prop 8 was high turn-out by african american voters who overwhelmingly voted for it. In the aggregate, african-americans are standing in the way of the expansion of civil rights and human dignity. Now that's a nice thought.

So yay. Yay, Obama. Hooray. It's a great day for America. When do I get to be an american?

Monday, November 03, 2008

But He's Making Progress

(earlier today)

Me: Why is tonight a very special night?

That Cowboy: Ummm... Because you have your History of Architecture mid-term?

(I look exasperated.)

That Cowboy: Ummm... Because tomorrow we vote?

(I still look exasperated, but shoot a quick glance at the television.)

That Cowboy: Oh! Because we watch "Heroes"!

Me: That's. My. Man.!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Here I am, living in the Coachella Valley, a full-time student carrying seventeen credits and getting straight A's, six days before this momentous election, dating a wonderful man, and I'm turning Forty-Four. Although I'm hard-pressed to imagine how things could be better, there is bitter in with the sweet. This is the first birthday of my life when I'm not going to get a birthday card from my Dad. First time ever. He was a fanatic about birthday cards. Although he didn't have a clear idea just when my birthday was, he knew it was a few days before Hallowe'en and he'd mail accordingly.

The celebration, such as it is, began last weekend. That Cowboy and I went to see the first performance of the season by Palm Springs' Gay Men's Chorus, the Caballeros. It was fabulous, held at the newly re-opened Riviera Resort, which sure looks nice. The theme of the evening was "Way Out West," and we were treated to a nice program. Half the of the songs I knew all the words to, but I was able to restrain myself from singing along. Mostly.

I've seen the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, and a while ago I stumbled across the Los Angeles Gay Men's Chorus doing a rendition of the Anvil Chorus on YouTube. Both of these groups are totally Pro. Fesh. Yun. Al. Every note is perfect, and the production values would make many broadway shows envious. The Caballeros, to my delight, was a lot more buncha-guys-up-there-on-stage-singin'. And thus, it had the same effect on me that watching the Olympics usually has: I was sobbing quietly through most of it, all choked up. I love amateurs. I get so caught up in it all when somebody is up there living their dream and giving it all they've got to give. And the Caballeros offered plenty of that.

Afterwards, That Cowboy and I were both feelin' that catharsis thing. We headed over to Bongo Johnny's, our default restaurant. As next weekend is Pride here in Palm Springs, Hallowe'en was celebrated this weekend, and as Bongo Johnny's is right there on Arenas, we had front row seats to the festivities, although they were pretty much over by the time we got there. Best costume I saw by far were two of the waiters who were done up as Sonny and Cher, circa 1971. I couldn't begin to recall all of the drag queens I've seen done up as Cher, but a winning Sonny is a rarity, and this guy had it down. Particularly apt as Sonny was formerly the mayor of Palm Springs, and then represented us in Congress, and then ran into a tree while skiing. His wife, Mary Bono Mack, now represents us in Congress, although her Democratic challenger is suddenly putting up quite the spirited fight. So we'll see.

And finally this. The Heavens Above gave me a great birthday present on the eve of said day. That Cowboy and I were sprawling in jalabas, as we are oft wont to do, watching the local news.

My hat is off to the hardest working men and women in broadcast journalism. Night after night, they are faced with the challenge of coming up with a twenty-three minutes of content concerning a place where nothing much seems to happen. Their sign-off could be, "No earthquake again today." This is particularly apparent when attention turns to the weather. The seven-day forecast spills across the screen--sunny, sunny, sunny, partly sunny, sunny, sunny, partly sunny. Once in a while, you can see them get all excited because they get to report on "cloud cover," which they seem to view as a Bad Thing, but which I've learned means that there will be these beautiful white puffy clouds hanging over Mount San Jacinto and if I think about it, I should take some picures.

Anyway, they wrapped up the weather report ("sunny, partly sunny, partly sunny, sunny...") by reporting that the Northeast was slammed by a snowstorm four days before Hallowe'en. As in, back in Bucks County, they're shoveling snow and cleaning off their cars.

Could I be happier with where and how I'm spending my forty-fourths birthday?

Clearly I could not be.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Blowin' In The Wind

I believed that all I needed to know about the Santa Ana Winds I had learned from reading Joan Didion, who famously described how the hot dry winds blowing up from the South as inspiring meek housewives in the Valley to cast their eyes from the knives they were using to bone chicken to their husbands necks.

Cool, right?

For the past few weeks, the Santa Ana has been 'a'blowin' here in the Desert. And, like, the Big Deal would be what?

In the wind, palm trees have this silvery tint, making them look like tinsel on a christmas tree. Apparently people who suffer from sinus problems have a hard time with the winds, and it does make my eyes red and watery on occasion, but I barely notice them, other than how they make the beauty of this place I call home even more striking.

They blow off and on, and they haven't slowed me down much. On Friday, I was washing cars with my fellow members of the College Of The Desert Architectural Club. (The purpose of the club is to raise money so that we can go ogle architecture. And I support that!) The car wash went well, marred only by my doing my best Not To Freak Out when I realized that the mini-van I was soaping boasted a "Yes On 9" sticker in the back window. So there I was, washing the Bigotmobile so I could go see Falling Water in May.

On Saturday, That Cowboy and I set off on an adventure. Way Back When, That Cowboy was named Scout Master of the Year in Montana, and he loves nothing more than the prospect of being out in the wilderness relying only on your wits and your Bowie knife for days at a time. In this case, it wasn't days but a day. We took the Tram to the top of Mount San Jacinto and spent the day hiking, rock climbing, and taking pictures. We found a nice little granite outcropping all to ourselves, the Coachella Valley spreading out before us with a view all the way to the Salton Sea, and from his backpack That Cowboy produced a feast that even included a nice Merlot to wash down the jerky, cherry tomatoes, and cheese.

(Impressive, no?)

The winds are blowing pretty strong today, but perhaps I don't notice them because I'm new in these parts. I can only describe the weather as "hot and beautiful," which is a description that could apply to every blessed day since I've been here. Perhaps after enough time, my sensitivities will be sufficiently refined to detect all the different varieties of Hot And Beautiful that the climate offers.


Gotta run. Today is the day I make my monthly run up to Desert Hot Springs to do my banking.

Curses! No M4M Option!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe The Plumber

So guess what...

In my humble opinion, Joe is H-h-h-h-hot.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Not Mad At All

How cool is that?

Last night on Mad Men, Don Draper gets freaked out by the threat of nuclear proliferation and drops off the grid by taking a trip to Palm Springs!

I swear!

For me, watching the episode along with That Cowboy and That Cowboy's oldest son, it was pretty surreal, a case of When Worlds Collide. And I think that the house where the jet-setters were crashing was none other than the Kaufman House, which I personally worship as the closest thing to a heaven here on this earthly plane.

On the part of the writers, I think that was brilliant. It was pictures of Mrs. Kaufman relaxing by her pool that broadcast a vision of Southern California sybaritic bliss to a stressed out and spiritually searching mid-century America and started the whole fascination with all things Modern.

Telling, too, that while Don Draper finds Joy in Palm Springs and recovers from heatstroke by the pool, Sterling Cooper, which provides the un-cantilevered structural support for his life, is starting to crumble Back East.

There are things that I haven't been attending to that I really should back there at the other side of North America, too.

But hey, who wants to go out for chile rellenos?

Friday, October 10, 2008

It Must Be Love Because I'm Writing Him Poetry

For Dale

I will be for you
a pool of cool clear water
in a dry and dusty place.

On those hard days
those can’t take another days
those I’m too old for this days

I’ll be there
to take your body
take your skin
inch by inch as you ease in
And wash away the sweat and dirt.

And when you emerge
refreshed and renewed
you’ll be ready for the dust and heat again.

I will be for you
a pair of good old boots
that wear hard but feel like velvet slippers.

When you strike out on
an untraveled road, to see the view
from the top of that mountain, or to cut through the brush
to find a new path when the one you follow leads you nowhere good,

You can pull me on and lace me up
and I’ll take the punishment and give you sure footing
so you can enjoy the view and feel the sun on your shoulders
and the breeze that cools your brow.

And where you go, I’ll go with you.
And even be the pillow--however rough--for your head
so you can rest for the next day’s journey.

I will be for you
a dusty old bottle of wine,
a merlot, say, mellowed and glowing garnet in the firelight.

With me you can celebrate
a victory, however small. And I’ll be there to make sure that even a bland
meal will be memorable.

Your life won’t be some colorless affair. You won’t
have to take it all so seriously.

You may be inspired to smile and laugh whether you
want to
or not.

And that’s all well and good.

But keep in mind,

Some days, perhaps when you need it most,
an evil snake will be rippling the surface
of your cool clear pool.

And some days,
mud and filth will cake your
good old boots.

And some days,
bitter dregs will be all that’s offered
by your dusty old bottle of wine.

But don’t forsake the pool.
Don’t leave your boots behind.
Don’t toss the empty bottle in the trash.

Because I am me,
and not a pool
nor boots
nor a bottle of wine.

And we would both feel the pain
of that parting.

Sparkle, Steelie, Sparkle!

Oh that's bad.

As I wrote the other day, the name I selected for my on-screen porn persona was "Smith." Simple, direct, and certainly easy to remember.

But it was not to be. The guy I did the shoot with reported to me just yesterday that the name given to me by the producer or director or whatever is "Steelie Smith."

Say what?

Steelie? Who's named Steelie?

But there it is.

And of course, my mind went right from Steelie Smith to Neely O'Hara in Valley Of The Dolls. And so I think it's inevitable that at some point I'll be greeted with a saluation along the lines of the title of this post.

And sparkle I will.

Monday, October 06, 2008

I Am The DJ, I Am What I Play

This past weekend, I again was lured beyond the mountains that surround the Coachella Valley. This time, I headed West to San Diego to spend some time with Alpha and to attend the final SuperPigs get together at the home of Roadkill and his boy.

I was thinking about heading out on Friday, but that didn't happen. Y'see, I was a little freaked out. A couple of days ago, I started getting this pus-y discharge from my penis.

I know, right?

I jumped the gun a wee bit by announcing to That Cowboy that I had a venereal disease. And it could possibly be a venereal disease, although that would mean that I got it way back on July 4th weekend. And from what I've read about syphilis and gonorrhea, that would be outside of the window for the onset of such symptoms by about ten weeks. So, it's more likely that I have prostatitis or urethritis. Alas, I also don't have health insurance, so I'm scrambling a wee bit about just what to do. I'm gonna give a call to the Desert AIDS Project and see if they can set me up with a visit to a doctor or a month's supply of erythromicin or something to assuage the situation. Although it doesn't really interfere with much, it does leave these little spots in the crotch of whatever pants I happen to wear, and it's kind of a boner-killer. And as I had swollen glands on Friday, I wasn't in what you might call a festive mood, so I decided to hold off to go until Saturday morning.

And so I did.

The drive is an easy one, taking--according to Google Maps--just over two hours. Considering that this was my morning and afternoon commute not so long ago, it's an easy trip.

And soon enough, I was parking outside of Alpha's building (and by "Alpha's building," I'm not just referring to the place where he lives, because, you see, he built the thing), and there was Alpha himself greeting me with a warm, "How's my clap-stricken buddy doing?"

Alpha was another person I told I had the clap, and when I explained that this might not be the case, he said, "Oh right, it's probably prostatitis." Apparently everyone has heard of or had prostatitis but me. And according to MedLine, "50% of all men experience prostatitis at some point in their lives." And one of the recommended treatments is "prostate massage."

Prostate massage... check.

News that That Cowboy will welcome.

Alpha needed some new flip-flops--without black soles because it seems that black-soled flip-flops make your feet turn black--so we headed out in search thereof. First stop was the discount store of a high-end department store (can't remember the name). Their flip-flop selection was pretty meager. They were offering lots of cold-weather clothing and outerwear. This seems to me to be absurd. This is Southern California afterall, and we don't do the cold weather thing. (Recall, if you will, the episode of 'Bewitched' when Santa Claus was up on the roof and the lawn was green and the palm trees were waving in the sunshine behind Samantha's head.) But retailers seem to insist that no matter the weather, we must buy parkas in September.)

I suggested Old Navy, my source for so many good things, and off we went to the Fashion Valley Mall. There is actually a neighborhood of sorts in San Diego called "Fashion Valley." Who could live with all that pressure? What would you wear to run out and pick up the mail? Every time you told anybody where you lived, they'd give you the once over.

At Old Navy in the Fashion Valley Mall, we indeed find a wide selection of flip-flops, going for some unbeatable low price like three-for-$10 or something.

And heading back with our flip-flops, I made a terrible discovery. There was a James Pearse store.

Now I know basically nothing about men's fashion. When I buy shirts, I ask myself, "can I wear this with leather jeans?", and when I buy pants or shorts, I ask myself, "Can I wear this with just a leather vest?" And that's all there is to it. But years ago, when I was in LA with my Sir, I found this shirt. It was a simple white long-sleeve shirt, but the cotton was so soft and fine. It was almost gauzy, but not quite. Much like the Look magazine photo spread of the Kaufmans sitting by the pool of the Neutra designed Kaufman House that launched the whole mid-Century modern ideal, it evoked this whole sybaritic living-outdoors Southern California life and I wanted to put myself in the picture.

I still have that shirt, even though me being me, about the second time I wore it I got myself with a ball point pen and despite my best efforts, that mark is still there. Although I was a little bit more successful in getting out the latté that I dribbled all over myself while wearing it.

The designer of that shirt was James Pearse.

Finding James Pearse stuff back East is no easy thing, but I managed to find a cool James Pearse hoodie that I added to my collection. But back in June, I went to the place of the original James Pearse find in West Hollywood and they had nada. I asked.

And here I was confronted with an entire James Pearse store. And I was financially pretty flush since I just made $600 bucks shooting a bondage video.

Not no more I ain't financially flush. But I do have all these great new James Pearse clothes. And how fitting that here I am leading this idyllic, sybaritic Southern California lifestyle!

Famished from our visit to Fashion Valley, Alpha and I went to this great mexican restaurant in Hillcrest that featured lobster burritos. That were amazing.

Back at Alpha's, he got ready for a date, and I got ready to head over to Roadkill's for SuperPigs.

The average annual rainfall for San Diego is 9.9 inches. In an instance of the Objective Correlative, Saturday night was one of the handful of times during the year that San Diego got a soaker. My iPod offered up Shirley Bassey singing "A Foggy Night In London Town" on the way over, and boy, was that fitting. I couldn't find parking near Roadkill's so I ended up walking a few blocks in the rain to get there, but managed to pick my way down the steep driveway and arrived happy though damp.

Inside the door, I was busy with the whole registration and disclaimer-signing business, when I came to consciousness of a flogging scene going on just beyond the front door. Omigod! It was 'bastian flogging hawgs! How cool is that? Right off the bat, familiar faces!

I sat and watched. 'bastian's style is unbelievably energetic. What a work out! For both parties involved! Hawgs was thoroughly enjoying it on the receiving end, laughing and giggling (I've seen hawgs giggle, I think I can go gently into that good night now), as 'bastian rained down blows on his back. It was a beautiful, remarkable scene.

Afterwards, I greeted 'bastian (hawgs was still in his blissy post-getting-flogged space), and 'bastian said he had to get ready for his next flogging scene.


I would have needed a few days recovery after that. Maybe a week.

Upstairs, I had a beer and asked after Roadkill. "Oh I think he's down in the Master bedroom whipping butters."


I made my way down there, and sure enough, that's what was going down.

But wait, I love that song.

But wait, I know that song.

But wait, I know this next song, too.

It's my SuperPigs mix!

Roadkill was whipping butters with the mix iPod Shuffle I made up as accompaniment!

I was overjoyed.

Years ago, Roadkill put out the call that he wanted music for SuperPigs, and I answered the challenge. I started out with burning CDs, but pretty quickly, I realized that wasn't going to work. But my local Apple Store in Doylestown, PA was having a sale on iPod Shuffles, so I invested in one. In curating the mix, I wanted to make sure that every song on there--whether hard and guitar-y or whimsical and light--would be a song that two kinky men could fall in love while listening to.

After I made the presentation--and Roadkill was über-gracious, I asked how it had gone after the next SuperPigs party. Roadkill confessed that although he liked it a lot, he wasn't sure that it would work for SuperPigs, it just wasn't what people were used to hearing, something more trance-y would be more appropriate. But he really liked it.


So whatever.

But here I was, listening to a my mix and watching a whipping scene.

And a great whipping scene.

Nobody--myself included--does it better than Roadkill.

After the scene was over, still singing Bowie's "Under Pressure" to myself, I headed upstairs and onto the deck. One of the best parts of SuperPigs, hanging on the deck, chatting, snacking (Cake! Yum!). I chatted with hawgs and 'bastian, and 'bastian paid some much appreciated attention to my boots. After 'bastian headed off to do yet another flogging (I am convinced that they took whatever he has and put it in a can and called it Red Bull), I started up a conversation with a fellow Palm Springs guy, who I've talked to a lot online but never in person. He's an amazing man and has an amazing story. But somehow, we ended up talking about real estate. (!)

Not that it was a bad conversation. He and I share some similar ideas about smart and sustainable development, or more to the extent that the powers that be in Palm Springs seem to. He announced that he was getting ready to head back to the Desert, and I decided to man up and ask him if he could stay long enough for me to flog him.

And he said yes.

Man, was that ever a treat.

This handsome man had this broad, muscular, beautiful back. I ran him through a variety of of flails from my collection, making each one a journey in itself, and, I hoped, having it all add up to a journey. His back responded wonderfully, reddening up. And so did he, going to this wonderful place. As I was winding down, I got the emotional response I wanted. That connection, that Here Now, that essential thing. And there he was, down on his knees at my boots, this big, handsome man.

In the same room while we were doing our scene was this piercing and suspension scene. It sounded awfully intense--although SuperPigs is kinda known for intensity. From what I could gather, everybody seemed to enjoy themselves.

Upstairs, Roadkill and his boy Jeff were taking a break as the party was starting to break up. I thanked Roadkill again for the music and he did me the favor of telling a few of the guys there that I was the one who had put the soundtrack together. They were all appreciative. And geez, that was great. You sort of send something off into the Universe, and it's great when you hear about the impact that it's had. How many men who I will never meet have taken note of that music that was playing? Roadkill's boy commented that often, a song would come up in the rotation as if in response to how the dynamic of a scene had changed, striking just the right note.


I headed back to Alpha's house. All was quiet and dark when I got there. I brushed my teeth and climbed into bed.

Sunday morning, after Alpha plied me with chicken and cornbread, I hit the road.

Quickly, I made a discovery. My BlackBerry was dead. I had no Google Maps app to guide me. I was flying blind. I remembered Temecula and Hemet, so I headed to Temecula, and when I saw an exit for Hemet, I took it. Thus began an extended journey through tiny towns in Southern California following a road which seemed to have a stop light every forty feet or so. But eventually, I found my way to the 10, and there I was, heading through the pass past the wind turbines to my desert home.

I chilled for a bit, and then gave a call to That Cowboy. He was watching television and invited me over, so I headed across the Wash. It's just the best of all worlds.

This is the life I want to live.

And I even have a great soundtrack for it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Me On Film

Well that was exhausting!

This weekend, I was off to Tucson, Arizona, to make my debut in the arena of downloadable erotica. We set off at 8:00 AM on Friday morning, and by "We" I mean me and Torren (his nom de porn), and Torren's Mister. On the way, we stopped off in Maricopa, an odd kind of city where all the houses seem to be painted the same shade of brown, where we had an early dinner with Torren's brother and his family. Then, it was a quick drive down the hill to the gracious home of Master Jack and his partner. After the introductions, we got right to work. Master Jack had told me that he wanted to capture for posterity shoot three scenes. For the first two, I suggested chain bondage and the Special Surprise scene that I do, but I was stumped for the third scene. This is the drawback of being the Two-Trick-Pony that I am: I either whip them or I chain them up. But I was open to suggestions, and Torren is nothing if not an old pro, so I was sure we'd come up with something.

So Friday night we tackled the Special Surprise scene. I blindfolded Torren with some vet wrap, and then restrained him to a ceiling hoist so that he was standing with his arms behind his back. Then, I circled him, waking up his skin with one of my favorite floggers, made of kangaroo skin with these thin, straw-like flays. Torren marks easily and beautifully, and pretty quickly he was red in all the right places. Then, as he moaned softly, I applied rows of clothespins to his pecs and his thighs. This was not easy, damn him and his 2% body fat! But with work, I managed to get them on. I played with them for a bit, flicking them around, and then came the Special Surprise!

"Take a deep breath," I told him.

And he did. And down I came with my really heavy (Takes Two Hands!) elk-skin flogger on the row of clothespins on his right pec. A flash of pain, and Torren howled mightily. It was beautiful.

"Three more to go!" I announced.

The playroom wasn't huge, so although the left pec went smoothly, I had trouble getting a good angle when it came to the thighs. So, I couldn't get them all in one fell swoop. It was more like five fell swoops. Torren was much too good of an actor to say, "Please let this end already!", but I bet he was thinking that.

Master Jack turned off the camera and said, "Yeah, okay, that was good. Now if you want to console him or whatever." Torren was flushed and pumped with endorphins, and didn't need much in the way of consoling or whatever. According to Master Jack, the consoling or whatever doesn't go over big with his audience.

Over the course of the weekend, we'd be hearing a lot about Master Jack's audience, and what they wanted to see and what they don't want to see. They don't want to see restraints, unless they're padlocked on. They want to see boots,and they want to see leather. And they definitely don't want to see consoling or whatever.

And my job, as I interpreted it, was to give the audience what they wanted.

After the scene, we jumped in the pool and got acquainted with Master Jack's dog. (I should, I guess, specify that he was the canine, rather than the human variety. The audience does not want to see puppy play, much to Torren's disappointment, as he likes that, and much to my relief, as I don't so much.) Master Jack's dog seems to have obsessive-compulsive disorder. He's focused all but exclusively on balls. He wants you to toss the ball to him, then take the ball from him, and toss it again. Over and over again until your arm falls off if need be. Other than his oddly-wired brain, he's a sweet dog, a huge shaggy German Shepherd. We had a nice supper (Master Jack is an excellent cook), and then it was off to bed.

I was up just about first the next morning. After the workout I gave him, Torren needed his rest, and Master Jack likes to sleep until about Noon. I relaxed on the patio out back and read through the New York Times, which Master Jack and his partner get delivered. Which was very nice. This budding porn star appreciates his New York Times.

Master Jack and his partner seem to have a power-imbalance relationship, although this wasn't explicit. They've been together for over two decades, so it could be that they've both settled into a comfortable routine and what were once barked orders have now become standing orders. I liked Master Jack's partner a lot, a very self-possessed man who was kind and thoughtful and made me a nice cup of tea that morning.

Once everybody was up and about, we got ready for the next scene. The chain bondage would go down in the garage, which wasn't air-conditioned, so doing it in the heat of the day wouldn't work so well. So the next scene would involve Torren in a neoprene sleep-sack and me edging him. We did a brief trial run with the sleep sack, as I didn't want to be figuring it all out with the camera rolling. It went off pretty well, although with Torren mummified in the sleep sack with only his dick and his balls popping out through their little slot, I couldn't resist tying them off and abusing them some. Torren, it turns out, has reeeeeally sensitive balls, and after not a lot of tapping, he broke into his "Sir... Stop! Please!" litany with a "Drew! Stop! Please!" Hearing my given name, I figured out what he was trying to get across (Drew, stop, please!) and that was enough of that. Cool. So I greased up his dick and jerked him off.

Torren shot torrents. It was really impressive. I'd put it at a quarter of a cup. I hope the audience appreciates that.

Later in the day, we did the chain bondage scene, which was sort of my whole purpose in being there. "That thing I do." Master Jack wanted me to chain Torren up in the cage. I had misgivings about that, since it would be a little awkward, and it would involve a lot of me crawling and scampering around on my hands and knees in a way that doesn't strike me as Fierce And Forbidding Chain Bondage Top. I suggested that I put lots of chain onto Torren while he was standing, and then order him into the cage to complete the job. And this went off pretty well. Pretty quickly, I had Torren loaded down with most of the lengths of heavier gauge chain, and he was sweating like a pig (*sigh*) from the weight of it. When I ordered him on his knees and into the cage, he had a little trouble complying because of all the work that suddenly involved. When Master Jack asked him to lift up his head and look at the camera, he let us know that he couldn't do that right now. (Sweet!) I finished off with the chain, padlocking it in place, and closed and locked the door of the cage. And that was a wrap.

But oh yeah, we'd have to unchain Torren and let him out of the cage. Details, details! Torren's Mister really liked the sight of his boy all chained up, and peppered me with questions about acquiring chain, so perhaps there will be more chain bondage in Torren's future, in an off-camera kind of way.

Because Master Jack and his partner had a function they had to attend that evening, dinner would be late, so Torren, Torren's Mister, and I repaired to a local Chili's for soups and salads to tide us over.

Back at Master Jack's, I put in a call to That Cowboy. Geez I missed him. So much. This guy that I didn't even know five months ago.

One of the questions that I've been wrestling with was what my screen name would be. On Saturday morning, before we began work, I came up with one: Smith. Not Master Smith, not even Mr. Smith, just Smith. Before it's pointed out to me that such a name Wouldn't Work because my fans won't be able to Google me unless I attain porn superstardom, let me just make it clear that I'm cool with that. I definitely don't have my sites set on porn superstardom. But That Cowboy liked Smith, so that was cool. That Cowboy's approval matters to me. Google can go hang fire.

After talking to That Cowboy, I put in a call to Naphtali. "So how are things in Palm Springs?" he asked. "Well," I answered, "I'm not in Palm Springs. This weekend I'm in Tucson, Arizona, the home state of that presidential candidate you admire."

A pause.

"Oh. I'm guessing that you're doing some construction work for That Cowboy or something?"

"No, although I am working. Man, am I ever working. I'm in an erotic video."

For once, I almost but not quite caught Naphtali off guard. Although he recovered pretty quickly, admitting that with me, you never quite knew what to expect.

When Master Jack and his partner got back, they fixed us a superb dinner, featuring really flavorful steak and a bearnaise sauce. Over dinner, I hit upon a new schtick. If you've ever visited Palm Springs or any of the desert cities that line the Coachella Valley, you could not but have been struck by the habit of the various town father's to name thoroughfares after notable personages. However, this being a getaway for Hollywood Stars, those notable personages include Gene Autry, Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra and the like. So, "head West on Dinah Shore and make a right onto Bob Hope" are driving directions it's possible to hear. So I think from now on, when people ask me where something is located, I'm going to use an algorithm involving a real street name here in the Valley, followed by the name of a not-so-well-known Hollywood Star. For example, "Yeah, that's at the corner of Ramon and Bonnie Franklin." Or, "You just head up Sunrise and make a right at Mason Reese." In fact, I may see about getting the name of the cul-de-sac street I call home changed to something like "Franklin Pangborn Place." Then, I'd be able to give directions by saying, "Turn off Sunrise onto North Riverside, and after the stop sign at Camino Real, make a right onto Franklin Pangborn." And it sure would be fun to give out my address.

So back to porn making.

Master Jack said that he was really happy with the material we had shot over the past two days, and he did not doubt that his audience would be pleased. (Yay!) But, there were just a couple of quick things he wanted to film tomorrow.

Which was cool. He's the boss. And after we shot a couple of quick scenes, we'd be able to get an early start and be back in Palm Springs in time for me to see Mad Men.

The next day started with a great breakfast of ham and eggs, toast and jam. And, of course, the Sunday New York Times. How perfect is that? The first scene that Master Jack wanted was an outdoors, full leather shot of Torren standing under a tree with a come-hither look on his face, and me coming hither. Great. Can we go now?


Then, another quick scene. Master Jack has this amazing federal marshal's cell in his garage. I mean, it is so cool. I am quite envious. So now, he wanted to get some footage of me putting Torren in the cell, chaining him up, jerking off all over his prone and helpless body, then locking him in there for ever and ever and ever. (The "for ever and ever and ever" part is big with the audience. As are gags. So Torren was to be gagged with black electrical tape for this scene.)

Okay. So here we go. Getting Torren in the cell and chained up and helpless, but before I locked him in there forever and ever and ever, I had to jerk off on him.

Oh cheese-and-rice. If I had any doubts about my suitability for a career as a porn star, they were confirmed. That just took forever. I know I wouldn't be able to have sex like a real porn star in front of the camera. I'm way too self conscious and easily distracted for that. And there are limits, y'know? But jerking off... that's basic, right? I've pretty much done that once a day since I was seventeen years old. How hard could that be?

Plenty hard.

Or not hard. To start off with anyway.

First off, I wasn't lying down, which is my preferred position. And what's more, I found I had to block out Torren, naked and helpless and chained before me, and Master Jack circling with the camera, and the fact that it was really hot in the garage, and the mosquito bites I had gotten over the course of the weekend. And, of course, I had to deal with "Vista Chino and Karen Valentine" and "Arenas and Zazu Pitts" running through my head. But finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was able to go to that Special Place, allowing my mind to finally circle back to the fact that there, right in front of me, was Torren naked and gagged and helpless and chained. So lesson learned: I'm not much good at Zen meditation, and I'm not much good at beating off in an erotica film.

Okay. So that's it, right? Time to say our goodbyes and hit the road?


One more scene.

This time, back up to the play room.

Master Jack has a mail bag and a wench for suspension, and he wanted Torren hooded, stuffed in the bag, and suspended.

Okie doke.

I have to admit, at this point, I was wondering how much money I would get by selling my leathers and my floggers and whips and such on eBay and buying a a new wardrobe consisting of natural linen jackets, straw boaters, ice cream pants, and saddle shoes.

Up to the play room, on with the hood. Then we stopped the camera and removed the hood and stuffed Torren in the mail bag. I secured the bag with chain and a padlock and hoisted him high. So then what? So I started using bagged Torren as a heavy bag and started punching him. This was sort of difficult, as he wasn't protected at all, and I couldn't tell exactly where I was punching him. Thankfully, only once did I connect with his head. As I wasn't wearing boxing gloves, this hurt me more than it did Torren, and my knuckles were pretty red and chafed.

"Now," said Master Jack, "why don't you finish up by doing that quick double punch thing that boxers do!"

Say wha...?

I have no idea what that quick double punch thing is that boxers do.

I did my best at approximating this, and apparently, I hit it because finally, Master Jack declared that we were Done.

O Angels and Saints be praised.

As though we were passengers on the Titanic who had just heard the news about what that loud noise was, we packed up and loaded up the car. The Ten to the Eight to Eighty-Five to the Ten to the Coachella Valley.

I only missed the first few minutes of Mad Men, and after it was over, I headed across the wash to where That Cowboy was waiting for me. "Welcome home, Smith," he said.

Oh man, I missed him so much.

Arms and legs intertwined, we curled up listening to the fountain he fashioned out on his patio gurgling away as we fell asleep.

Home at last.

Monday, September 22, 2008

That's Mr. Tollgate To You

So it seems that next weekend I'm off to Tucson to be filmed for a bondage video. While discussing this with a couple of buddies of mine this evening, the question came up, "Will you use your real name, or a nom de porn?"

It's my understanding that technically speaking, what I'll be doing won't be pornographic, but hopefully it will be erotic. (That is to say, it'll be a bondage scene, and not involving straight up sex.) So would it be appropriate in that context to use a porn name? And if I were to use a porn name, what name would I use?

According to the porn star name game--not to be confused with the drag queen name game--my porn name would be Chippy Tollgate. (Your first name is the name of the pet you had as a child and your last name is the name of the street you grew up on.) Actually, this gives me numerous options, now that I think about it. My childhood home was quite the menagerie. We had a horse, a pony, several dogs and cats, and at one point a duck whom we counted as pets.

So here is the roster of possibilities...

Chippy Tollgate
Moko Tollgate
Duke Tollgate
Gallahad Tollgate
Valentine Tollgate
Boots Tollgate
Moishe Tollgate
Quack-Quack Tollgate
Fuzzy Tollgate
Angus Tollgate
Sassy Tollgate

Omigod! It's so hard to choose! Gallahad Tollgate sure paints a picture. Valentine Tollgate would be a lot to live up to. But Quack-Quack Tollgate is pretty hard to resist. (Quack-Quack, of course, was my pet duck. Who ran away. And my sister went running through the woods looking for him calling, "Quack-Quack! Quack-Quack! Quack-Quack!")

Still, my first inclination would be to use my real name. That would mean, though, that I'd have to give up my political aspirations. Or maybe not. I don't know that making a bondage video would necessarily count someone out for running for office in California. In fact, I could use it in my campaign material: "It's true I'm a Sadist, but I'd never do anything to hurt California!"

Oh wait a minute... That's right. I don't have any political aspirations.

I guess my concern would be that my actual name doesn't sound very erotic. Or sadistic. And political aspirations or no, when I go out looking for a construction management job in two years, I might not want that showing up in Google.

Perhaps I could just go with "Dutch," my nickname at Wuperior Soodcraft.

I'll have to give this some thought.

Or maybe I'll just go with Quack-Quack Tollgate after all.


Oh, cool.. Be sure to click on the "See the exhibit" link.

[Creaky Old Man Voice] "Why I remember a time before the Wessel O'Connor Gallery moved to Brooklyn."

(I found this on jimbo's site.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I didn't plan on falling in love when I moved to the desert.

Quite the reverse: I planned on not falling in love when I moved to the desert. My focus during my initial two years here was first and foremost job skills education, followed by a time of healing and reflection. And that's it.

Avoid entanglements. Remain aloof. You've got homework to do. Always.

That's what I was thinking about in church this morning, with That Cowboy sitting next to me. He has mostly been a Mormon, a faith that I know little about other than their peculiar choices for underwear, the veneration of the seagull that graces the license plates of Utah, and some vague details about Joseph Smith and the revelations of the angelic messenger Moroni. And, I knew that they weren't very progressive when it comes to homosexuality.

A few dates ago, That Cowboy asked what I was doing tomorrow, and "tomorrow" being a Sunday, I said, "I'm going to church, followed by my other ritual, reading the New York Times, and after that, homework."

"Church?" he said.

And I talked some about my faith, inchoate and intuitive and undogmatic as it is, and the Episcopal Church, and why I feel at home there. There was interest in his eyes, and after all that time in the pews being exhorted to "invite someone to church!" by more priests than I can count, I said, "Would you like to come along?"

And so, my church-going since I've been here in the desert has involved That Cowboy. He asks questions, and I do my best to answer them and to put him at ease about the aerobic aspects ("there's no right thing or wrong thing to do really, and you'll notice that different people do different things; mostly it springs from personal beliefs and your response to those beliefs at different parts of the liturgy").

That Cowboy and I have gotten together a few nights a week. He'd make dinner for me, and a couple of times I've made dinner for him. (That Cowboy makes a great chicken soup with dumplings.) And we go out to eat. On one of our first dates, we made our way out to Whitewater Preserve and lied (uncomfortably) on the hood of my jeep and looked at the stars. That Cowboy works as a sort of home fix-up guy. There's a house in North Palm Springs he's been working on for a while, and one Friday, when we got together for lunch, he invited me up to take a look at the place. I was totally nervous about that. What if I didn't like it? I used to get paid at Wuperior Soodcraft for scrutinizing the handiwork of the guys in the shop--doing the QC--before it went on the truck for delivery.

That Cowboy's work is great. Really great. His craftsmanship is all but flawless, and he has a great eye for design.

And all during that little house tour, there he was, sweaty in his Wrangler's and boots.

He's kind and thoughtful, strong, honest, and hard-working, handsome and quick to laugh. When he talks about the places he's lived--Montana, Colorado, Algeria, Texas--he talks about the natural beauty of each place.

And he has this great dog. A rhodesian ridgeback, bred to hunt lions. I've told That Cowboy that the first thing I liked about him was his dog, since I believe you can tell all you need to know about a man by his dog. That Cowboy agrees that he has a really good dog.

So today, after church, I spilled the beans. Sitting in That Cowboy's living room, I swallowed hard and said, "Y'know what I was thinking about in church today? I was thinking about how I'm falling in love with you."

And things got pretty Molly Bloom's Soliloquy after that. Yes yes and I yes. Yes.

As we sat holding each other, talking in whispers, kissing, an idea came into my mind. It's an antiquated idea, from the children's literature I read when I was a little boy. It's an Uncle Wiggly idea. I looked That Cowboy in the eye and said, "I want for us to have Adventures together."

He smiled, he laughed, his wise eyes again got moist. "Yes," he said. He told me that yesterday, when we were up at Whitewater, I was walking the trail down to the creek ahead of him, and he thought to himself, "I could really go places with that man."

And so it seems, like a circle in a circle like a whirl within a whirl, within this great adventure of mine, starting with a precipitous and premature cross-country jaunt (I got a traffic ticket in the mail the other day; apparently I ran a red light in St. Louis), another adventure begins. And there will, I hope, be adventures within this adventure.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Baby Lizard

Food poisoning.

That's right, food poisoning.

It all stems from The Problem I Can't Solve. Namely, what to do for lunch at College of the Desert. One great flaw of life here in the Coachella Valley is there aren't any pizza parlors. There are plenty of Pizza Huts and "italian ristorante" type places with table cloths and such, but no place with $1.75 slices.

What's an on-the-go college student to do?

Many of my fellow students make due with the food court at the Westfield Mall. Which isn't too bad. The hamburgers offered by the school cafeteria don't seem to be too popular, but I'll look into them eventually.

Anyway, while I was driving around looking for something or other last week, I thought I found just what I was looking for: a Quizno's right next to a Starbucks out in Palm Desert.


I love Quizno's, and right next to a Starbucks makes it one stop shopping for me.

Alas, yesterday after Technical Drafting (Drafting is HARD.), I headed down Monterey to where I had spotted the delectable duo. But alas, the Starbucks was still there, but the Quizno's was closed.

But there was a place called Chop Stix, a chain offering "Fresh Asian Flavors."

(My stomach heaves just typing that.)

And so in I went, and ordered a chicken spicy basil bowl or something. I noticed that despite the name, Chop Stix gives out plastic silverware with their food. But after a short wait, there was lunch. And I was starved.

I took a bite, and I thought, "Huh. That tastes kind of odd."

I thought it was odd in the way of being unfamiliar, but no, it was odd in the way of being someone left the chicken out overnight or the sesame oil was rancid.

And I ate the whole thing, not even concentrating on it because I had my first Spanish test yesterday.

After lunch, it was back to campus and off to the language lab, getting in a little last minute cramming for the test. Which went well. Although it occurred to me that this was the first time I sat for a test like this in over twenty years. Just that alone felt really strange. I remembered somehow (how?) all those testing strategies from high school: read the directions carefully, read over the entire test and do an easy section first as a warm up, and don't forget to put your name on the paper.

I think I got a decent grade on the test, although I took some chances with the essay section, in which we were writing to our new pen pal, Marta Valles. (¡Hola, Marta! ¿Qué tal? Me llamo Drew. Soy un hombre de cuarenta y tres años. La feche de me compleaños es el veintinueve de octubre.)

After I got done the Spanish test, I headed to the meeting of the College of the Desert Architecture Club. I'm liking the Architecture Club. Activities include doing fundraising of various sorts so that we can go on field trips. Every year in June, there's the Big Field trip, as in a week in NYC or Washington DC or somewhere. And, there are lots of local field trips, too. In a couple of months, the plan is for us to go to Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall in LA to hear a concert, in order to best appreciate the purpose for which the space was designed. Cool!

During the Architecture Club meeting, I was feeling vaguely queasy. At six o'clock was my California Building Codes class (the instructor is this totally woofy ex-Marine from Queens). By the time that was over at 8:30 (las ocho y media de la noche!), I was having sweats and chills.

And so it's been.

It was a beautiful day here in Palm Springs, a few clouds in the sky and at times a light breeze blowing. Or at least, during the three minutes when I staggered out of my darkened apartment to step outside onto my patio, that's the way it seems.

I did manage to get together with That Cowboy for lunch today. We went to Rick's and I had a cup of the cold cucumber soup and half a chicken salad sandwich. Portions at Rick's tend to be Man Sized, but the way I was feeling, my lunch could have been served up in a wheelbarrow or some kind of trough. But I did what I could.

After lunch, I went home and went back to bed. Over the past twenty-four hours, I think I've slept for about twenty of them. And y'know how when you're sick, it affects your emotional state? Well I totally have that. All bleak and pointless and doomed. Thoughts that I haven't had since I've been here in the desert, that's for sure. And they felt so unreal.

But then, the healing happened.

Just now, there I was, deep asleep, when I felt something on me. Probably a fly, I thought. And swatted it. And there it was again, in the cup of my clavicle. So I brought my chin down to my shoulder, a move any fly could easily avoid, and this one didn't. I moved in with my hand and tried another swat. And this time, I felt it. And it didn't feel like a fly. It felt like a little gummi worm.

Okay. Freaking out now. Wide awake. On goes the light. What the hell is in bed with me?

And there it was: a little lizard. It looked new-born, it's skin translucent, so I could see it's little heart beating.

Hey buddy! Where did you come from?

And that's a question I haven't answered to my own satisfaction. Apparently, there's not a whole next of fingerling lizards in my bed, so where did this one hatch and how did it find its way into my bedroom?

No matter.

I deposited it on the floor and watched it skitter under the bed.

I'm saying "lizard," but in my fevered delirium, I was thinking salamander. In the Tarot, the salamander is associated with fire, and therefore with vitality and creativity.

I took the little guy for an emissary, sent by the Universe to bring me comfort and healing. Lizards, after all, are beneficial. They eat bugs. I totally don't mind having lizards in my house.

So far, the healing hasn't quite set in yet. I still feel pretty crappy. I think I'll give That Cowboy a call and see if he wants to hang out and watch television and stroke my fevered brow and apply cool washcloths to my burning forehead. (I know, right? Who wouldn't be up for that as a great way to spend a Friday night. I hope That Cowboy will recognize it for the test that it is.) Or maybe not. It's almost ten o'clock (las diez menos seis de la noche!), and he might already be out and about enjoying his Friday night after a week of working out in the hot sun, so perhaps I'd best just settle in for the night on my lonesome. But we'll see. Worth a shot anyway.

And Good Health is on the way. And the harbinger of that is now skittering around under my bed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In Dreams

Last night, I woke up at 4:30 A.M. from a deep sleep. I was having an anxiety dream.

A couple of weeks ago, while I was standing in line to register or filling up my arms at the bookstore, the thought actually crossed my mind, "What would be the content of my anxiety dreams now?"

I understand that commonly, most people's anxiety dreams look a lot like mine. There I am, back in school, the papers are being handed out for a final exam. I realize that back at the beginning of the semester, I misread my schedule and so I haven't actually attended any of the classes or heard any of the material on which I am now being tested. All these years later, and the anxieties that plagued me in high school and college are still with me.

And so it occurred to me that now that I'm back in college, going to classes and taking exams, what would I dream about when my sleeping mind got all anxious?

And last night, I got an answer to that idle question.

In my dream, it was election day, 2008. I was incredibly anxious because John McCain might win.

Back in 2000, I gave money to John McCain's Straight Talk Express. I liked the guy, and I liked what he had to say. (On the Democratic side, I was favoring Bill Bradley, for many of the same reasons.) Somewhere, in one of these many boxes I have yet to unpack, is a McCain 2000 button I got for my check.

But reading about the campaign over the past couple of weeks, I've grown more and more worried.

I think the first thing that caught my attention was Sarah Palin's statement in her acceptance speech that Barack Obama (spellcheck on Blogger still fails to recognize that name and it appears with a jagged red underline) found time to author two books but hasn't written one piece of legislation.

That's not true, I thought.

And, as the press and independent fact checker websites confirmed, that's not true.

And then came McCain's recent attack ad in which he claimed that Obama wrote and passed a law (uhhh... wait a minute...) that would teach sex education to kindergarten students.

It turns out that what the ad refers to was legislation passed by State Senator Obama to educate children about the threats posed by sexual predators. A "Bad Touch" kind of thing.

So John McCain was lying.

And I happened to be watching The View the other day when McCain was on and was asked by Joyce Behar (or whatever her name is) why he was lying about Barack Obama in his campaign ads. And he denied he was lying. Which in my book counts as lying again.

Here's why that bothers me so much: that's exactly why I've come to hate George W. Bush. George Bush looked me in the eye and told me a lie. And I believed him. I believed him when he said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat to us, and after a war that would be in-by-April-out-by-June, we'd eliminate that threat and establish a democratically elected government in the Middle East and that democracy would spill over into Iran and Saudi Arabia and Syria and everything would be hunky-dory. And I believed that.

George Bush lied to me.

And now, John McCain's lying to me.

And so is Sarah Palin.

And another aspect of my dream--I swear--was that before he could be innaugurated, McCain had a fatal heart attack and Sarah Palin was to be sworn in as the forty-fourth President of the United States of America. (I actually have no idea what would happen in that situation; to the best of my knowledge, it wasn't contemplated by the framers of the Constitution.)

And that really scared the shit out of me, that a woman who lies and keeps on lying (about her opposition to the Bridge to Nowhere) who before she was the governor of a state that has the overwhelming lion's share of it's revenue come from tax payers in the other forty-nine states, was the mayor of a town not quite as large as Doylestown, Pennsylvania. And because she made some Really Bad decisions about the building of a new recreation center, she left Wasilla with a deficit of several millions of dollars and no recreation center when she ascended to Governor.

Up until now, up until this dream I had last night, I've been leaning toward Obama, but not because I think he'll be a superdooperincredible President. But just because I want three things from the next President:

1. I want health insurance I can afford;
2. I want us to get the hell out of Iraq; and
3. I want the United States of America to stop torturing people.

And Obama seems to be slightly more likely than McCain to fulfill those objectives. Because Obama at least has talked about each of those, and all I've heard from McCain is how tough a McCain presidency would be on Pork Barrel Spending, an issue about which I care just about not at all.

But now, fuck John McCain. That man will say or do anything to get elected. Including looking me in the eye and lying to me. And I see no indication that if elected, he and his Vice President wouldn't lie and lie and lie and lie and lie.

And I don't want that from my President.

But, I'm worried that just like me back in 2003, at least 50.5% of the voting populace in a handful of swing states will believe the lies they're being told, and we could indeed be in for four more years of complete and unmitigated moral bankruptcy in this country.

God, I hope not.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


It almost rained today.

When I came out of Elementary Spanish (doce más cuarenta y tres son cincuenta y cinco), the wind was blowing all the palm fronds, coming from the Southeast at a good clip. The sky was dark off in that direction, storm clouds were threatening.

Aside from a few sprinkles on the windshield--just enough to make the dust stick--it didn't rain.

Of course.

This is the desert.

But I'm sort of surprised at how often it almost rains.

And when it does almost rain, it stirs something in all of us. Or at least, it stirs something in me.

I see myself drenched, arms outstretched, face upwards, eyes closed, mouth open, peels of thunder, flashes of lightning.

It's almost rained a few times since I've been here. But only almost.

I suppose I'll have to make due with Almost.

It almost rained today.

We almost had a real downpour.

Almost cats and dogs.

Almost coming down in buckets.

Almost ten inches in twenty minutes.

Almost flooding half the valley.


September 11, 2008

Brooklyn to Palm Springs in seven years. It's like the Seven League Boots, only chronological rather than geographic.

Seven years ago, there I was, dreaming of some different life, knowing that if I didn't change my life, it would kill me. Although those dreams were inchoate, Palm Springs is a pretty fair approximation of what I was dreaming of.

Here I am in the desert, where I belong.

I think if I were to be given a glimpse back then of where I would be in seven years, it would have made me very happy. Except for one thing: I bet I would bristle at the seven years in between.

"So do I have to wait that long? I'm not good with the patience thing."

But now, those seven years feel like an unfortunate weekend. A flat tire, distress, blurting out prayers, getting bad news.

Did that really all happen?

It's all starting to seem a little unreal.

And then there was that day seven years ago.

The national significance recedes at this point, subsumed by the individual significance I give it.

I wonder if it's that way for a lot of us? I knew of plenty of plenty of people who died on September 11, 2001, but although there were a few near misses, I didn't know who was on one of those planes or in one of those buildings. And statistically speaking, that's the case with most of us.

So if the events of that September day made all of us stop and get some perspective. I wonder if seven years on it's become "the day that I knew I had to quit that job," or "the day I decided to have children," or "the day I realized how much I really loved him and how empty my life would be without him in it"?

Maybe that's what today should be about. In part at least. If a plane were to come out of the sky right at you, who would you call? Where would you rather be than where you are now? What's the one thing you'd wish you'd had the chance to do? What would you say to the person next to you? If you're inclined to pray, what would your prayer be?

Because seven years ago today, we all learned that a plane really could come out of the sky.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Here in the desert, the weather has apparently broken for the year. Today, the temperatures were in the 90's, but not in the 100's. Being from "Back East," (as it's referred to here), I'm dubious. I've known too many beautiful days in May where you could break out the shorts only to have near freezing temperatures within a week.

But apparently, that's not the way it works here. It's summer, and then it isn't. And from now until June, it's nothing but beautiful weather: warm in the day time and cool at night.

That Cowboy I've been seeing a lot of reports that pretty quickly you develop thin blood and need a jacket when it gets below 70. Apparently, my blood has always been thin.

You could sense a change in everyone's mood though. All smiles and "isn't it beautiful?" and riding around in the convertible with the top down.

I'm happy for the change. Just more beautiful things that the desert has to show me.

Friday, September 05, 2008

In The Desert

It had to happen.

Things have been going so well since I arrived here in Palm Springs. Finally, disaster struck. I'm still shaken by the experience.

There I was, sitting out behind Koffi on a perfect hot August day, peaceably enjoying my mocha freeze, when I drank my mocha freeze too quickly and got one of those sharp pains in my forehead. So you see, living here in Palm Springs is not without its challenges.

And even though you find a great apartment on your first day of looking and within five days you've signed a lease and moved in, and even though you're coming off a great first week of classes at College of the Desert--my California Building Code instructor is way hot, and even though you discover that there's a Starbucks within walking distance of your apartment, and even though ditto for one of the two leather bars in town, and even though you take these great day trips to Disney and up the mountains to Idylwild, life is full of surprises and it can just rise right up like a rattler and bite you in the form of an unexpected brain freeze from your drink out behind Koffi.

Seriously though, things have just been going great. The list goes on and on, and would probably be tedious to read. Among significant developments is the discovery that I can get to the aforementioned leather bar, the Tool Shed, by going out the back gate of my complex, down this really seedy back alley that has all kinds of potential, and be there in about three minutes.

And, because it's walking distance, for the first time in over a decade, I got totally drunk the other night. I rarely have more than a beer when I'm driving, and usually stick to Red Bull or water, but since I can walk to a leather bar, I decided to kick back and gratefully accept the shots that were bought for me when I was there. And I even had a second beer. Lightweight that I am, I was totally buzzing after that. But then, as Shot Number Three was being poured, I heard a little alarm bell go off in my head, one I don't think I've heard since I was in college (the last time), that tells me that if I have one more sip of alcohol, things are going to get really unpleasant. That night almost resulted in an episode of Drogging While Blunk, but it didn't. When I got home I opted for bed instead.

And I'm anxiously looking forward to next Friday, when the North American Van Lines truck pulls up outside the front gates and disgorges all my worldly goods into my new apartment. Or "bungalow," as I prefer to think of it. After that, there will be no prying me out of my desert home.

And, I think I got full credit on my first Spanish quiz. ¡Buenos Dias! Me llama Drew. ¿Cómo se llama usted? Totally got that down.

I'm excited about my other classes, too, which include Technical Drafting I ("the pencil is a tool of communication, and I hope to teach you how to express yourself fully with it"), the California Building Code, Intro. to Construction Management, and on Monday I'll get a taste of History of Architecture and Intro. to the Architectural Professions. And I've also signed up with the Architecture Club. Mostly it involves visiting local architecturally significant buildings such as the Kaplan House, Disney Concert Hall, and the Getty Villa and such. And, they spend the year raising money and after classes end in June, go spend a week doing archi-tourism somewhere with all the money raised.

And gosh, I've been spending time with this guy whom we'll call Cowboy. He does home remodeling here in the Coachella Valley and might have some work for me. And oh man, does he look good in his boots and Wranglers.

And I've had some fascinating conversations with some of the men I've met here. I spoke tentatively about the feeling I had of being called here, how strange it is that I feel so at home in the desert, to a couple of guys I was talking to at the Tool Shed. They did their best to conceal the looks that crept across their faces which told me that they had heard that before. Then that means you belong here, one of them offered. One of them said that there were two kinds of people who come to Palm Springs. During the season, they come from all over to enjoy our mild weather. The bars are packed. It's like the circus is in town every weekend. But many confuse the circus for the town itself and move here expecting it to be a party that never ends. But they don't stay. But there are others who come here because something calls to them, and after they hear the call, there's no other place that they can be.

It's a mystical place. In the middle of the desert, and oasis. We sit on top of an enormous aquifer. The Coachella Valley is the only place in the entire state of California that doesn't have to bring in water from somewhere else. Surrounded by the San Jacinto mountains to the South and West and by the San Bernardino mountains to the North and East. An incredible place.

And it's my home.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happiest. Place. On. Earth.

A week ago, if I had received a phone call informing me that I had won an all expenses paid trip to Disneyland, my response would have been, "Uh... Could I get the cash equivalent?"

I had no interest in Disneyland. I never went there as a kid. And if my parents had presented to me the option of a vacation for my birthday (something my parents wouldn't have done if they had the means to do so; it was a different time when I was a child), I would have opted for Paris or London or the beach. Disney wouldn't have entered my mind.

But two guys I've met here in Palm Springs are all about Disney. They proposed and I accepted. It seemed like an appropriate way of introducing myself to Southern California.

Thus, yesterday morning, I was leaving my beloved Palm Springs and headed to Anaheim.

On the way, we watched a DVD about Disneyland and listened too a Disney sing-a-long CD. So the pump was primed.

So you go up to the gate and you pay the price of admission and there you are in Disneyland! And sure enough, there was Mickey and Goofy and Minnie. First order of business was to get something to eat. We went to a restaurant on Main Street U.S.A. There were about eight things on the menu, but it took them forever to come up with our orders. What up wid dat?

But after a mediocre lunch, we started in on the rides.

Oh man.

The rides were great.

I had never quite realized how much Disney had seeped into our collective unconscious. Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Frontier Land... I knew what the deal was before I set foot in the Magic Kingdom. Space Mountain by far was my favorite of the day, but the Haunted Mansion was also pretty great. When I was a young'n, I had a record called "Disney's Sounds Of A Haunted House." It was basically a collection of sound effects strung together with a narrative. I was enthralled by it. And there I was, listening to it all, and seeing the ghostly figures dancing in the ballroom and the terrified gravedigger and the ghostly bride.

The attention to detail at Disney is incredible. Everything you're seeing is just so well thought out. The plantings are great, the design details are flawless. It was all pretty impressive.

There's this addition to Disney that's only a few years old. It's called Californialand. In the northern part of Californialand, there were pines and ferns and such. And some really cool rides. The elevator ride in the Hollywood Hotel totally rocked, but one of the highlights of the day was Soarin' California. It was basically watching a movie, aerial shots of various places in the Golden State, but it was maginficent. You're suspended in a chair and the photography is magnificent. And while "flying" over the orange groves, you smell oranges. And over the waves of the Pacific (so close!) you smell the salt air. When they showed Palm Springs (golfing? all they could come up with was golfing?), we all gave a little cheer.

At about 9:00 p.m., I had had about all the happiness I could take. We went on a couple more rides, one of which, Splash Mountain, involved me getting wet, and then headed for home. On the way to the gates, I noticed something: Main Street U.S.A. bears a strong resemblance to Doylestown, PA. It apparently was modeled on Walt Disney's home town, but it sure could be the county seat of Bucks County. The implications of that are way too much for my sun-baked brain to comprehend at this point.

Late at night in Palm Springs, the only thing open is Denny's, so that's where we went for dinner. Opening the door of the car in the Denny's parking lot, I felt that great warm air. I was home. Home again. Back from my adventures. Back in the desert.

Getting some food put me in a better disposition. I think I'm starting to have blood sugar issues. And then it was back to my humble abode. The place is still empty, my furniture won't be showing up until about September 12th, but it's the place where I live here in Palm Springs.

As far as I'm concerned, this is the happiest place on earth.

The attention to detail is terrifically impressive.

(Main Street USA = Doylestown)