Can You Truly Achieve All Your Goals?: May 2021

The other evening while savoring a tasty Buffalo chicken sandwich at a Palm Springs eatery, I experienced an epiphany as I gazed out upon a burnt orange and red sunset – I realized that I had pretty much achieved all my goals in life.

Then, as quick as that, a lightning bolt came crashing down upon my euphoria – “So, now what?”

Don’t get me wrong, I am BEYOND grateful for everything I’ve been blessed with, but as I near my sixth decade occupying real estate upon this planet, I find myself pondering: “What of the future?”

How does one reconcile a beauteous past in context of the years to come?

Hmmmm, pause for consideration.

When I graduated from college almost 40 years ago, I had one ambition – to become a writer and earn an annual salary of $35k. That was such a lofty goal at the time – back then $35,000 a year was a lot of money.

Little did I realize that over the years my modest goal would expand far beyond what I could imagine. Then, I was living in a converted garage and earned $600 a month – before taxes!

As my writing skills improved, my housing, salary, knowledge and goals grew. By the time I was 26, I was a supervisor at a newspaper; by 27, I had purchased a condo using money I cash-advanced from a credit card. I didn’t see myself as particularly ambitious, only that there were things that needed to be done, and that I may as well be the one to do them.

By my mid-thirties I was in a job that allowed me to travel all over the country. This was fantastic as I had never really traveled much, so I relished the opportunity of jaunts to Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, New York and the like.

My taste for travel soon became a thirst, and it quickly oozed beyond this continent. Europe, Asia, Australia, these were all places where I traveled to find that no matter where you go, human beings are intrinsically all the same.

Each time I returned, I was greeted by homes which were far grander than that first converted garage.

Over the years, I was continuously drawn to Palm Springs, it was and is the only place on the planet where I feel truly at peace. In thinking of retirement, I knew this was the place where I’d end up.

My final job before retirement was like a dream come true – I call it the cherry on the top of my life’s sundae. I ran a department, was part of the executive management team and had always been good at saving, so I was able to retire at age 57.

You ask, “Why quit your dream job when you’d finally reached your career goal?” You see for 35 years, as great as most of it all was, I had this nagging ambition in the back of my head – I wanted to write a novel. Like the other goals, I was not going to be satiated until I added “novelist” to my resume.

So, I quit, packed up and moved full-time to Palm Springs.

Amidst this, I found myself in a relationship which seemed destined for the altar. After a few years, I was able to add “married” to my list of accomplishments, and as my spouse still works, we travel back and forth between Los Angeles and the desert.

Palm Springs is a fantastic place to write and there is so much serenity here, so easing into the rhythm of creative writing came easily. Late last year, I published “Coconut,” the novel that had been held captive in my brain for all too many decades.

And, that is how I came to sit upon a bar stool realizing that, yup, I had pretty much achieved the goals in life I sought out to accomplish.

I now find myself in a quandary. I am starting a second novel, but I don’t feel the same pressure complete it, so some days and weeks, I simply “float.”

“Floating” is a fun activity, but also very dangerous. Some days I can’t recall if I’ve tied my shoelaces. But that’s o.k., for too many decades, I pressured myself to achieve – rising at 5:15 a.m. daily and putting my pen down long after the sun had set. The other day in a line at Walmart, I was talking with a retired couple. I said, “How did we do that work routine for all those years?” The wife responded, “You had to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head. There wasn’t time for those types of questions.”

That was quite true.

We are supposed to go to Egypt next year and I am excited about the prospect of getting back out into the world.  It seems there is still much to do, so I have adopted the philosophy of “Just Doing It” rather than having set goals.

At this point in life, I’m o.k. with being “goal-less” and find I can still accomplish things; they just don’t have to be as defined as in the past. After decade upon decade of goal-checking, it’s a bit of a relief just to be. Yes, “being” is just fine by me.

And, with that I end as “Poolside from PS.”

The COVID Comedy: April 2021

Over the course of the pandemic, I have been careful to avoid over-referencing the obvious – that being the COVID pandemic has wrecked havoc over every one of our lives for the past year.

Now that more and more of us are being vaccinated and we are beginning to see the forest through the trees, the light at the end of the tunnel, the caboose at the end of the train, in the search for a quick ending to this overly long and dramatic bad movie, I’ve discovered some aspects of amusement, even humor, albeit a comedy of errors.

Once the first vaccine had been approved, it was as though everything changed over night. We suddenly saw a glimpse of a future where the endless litany of death and despair might at some point end. This was followed quickly by the question?

“When can I get my shot?”

The state of California quickly laid out the framework for vaccinations – seniors, essential workers, first responders and the like, move to the front of the line. Behind them followed a succession of groups such as 1A, 1B, 2A, too-long-before-they-get-to-my-group.

The internet quickly flooded with self-proclaimed “vax hunters” who would haunt vaccination locales like zombies, hoping to hear “We can handle two additional people.” We heard dramatic stories of hospitals whose freezers had defrosted, calling out in the middle of like carnival barkers: “Vaccinations, vaccinations, come and get your vaccinations.”

To counter this, we had and continue to have the “anti-vaxers” proclaiming: “Sheeples, the vaccine was created by little purple people from Mars who are intent on gaining control of your minds.” Good one, yeah — almost as good as shooting bleach into your body.

 To counter this unfounded fear of the vaccine, doctors from UC Davis created a parody of a Hamilton hit, “I’m Not Throwing Away My Shot.” It’s pretty humorous but makes its point quite clearly. Seeing the faces of those doctors singing, I am amazed at the fortitude of the human spirit to turn so much pain into a positive.

Americans have always been adaptable, but within weeks, it was evident how quickly we were ready to move on with our lives. The lines that once filled Dodgers Stadium for COVID tests, were quickly replaced by those waiting to get their first shot of vaccine.

My friend who is COVID-obsessed (you know the ones who spend all day stalking the internet for COVID tidbits) and I made a pact. “If you hear of a place giving out extra vaccines, call me immediately!” was the agreement we settled upon.

I remember when the vaccine first made its way to Palm Springs, it was like something out of a sci fi flick. People in disposable white suits lifted off the pages of the “Andromeda Strain” began shooting little old people in the arms.

 And, they lived!

Conversations soon became code: “Which did you get? The ‘P’, ‘M,’ or ‘J&J’?”  I always want to respond, “I got the P&J on white bread.”

Over the past weeks there has been greater access to the vaccine, so the state expanded criteria to 16-64 with health conditions – no questions asked. I was always a big fan of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, so I see this as yet another opportunity for those who have decided “enough is enough,” as we’ve seen there are still a fair number of those who don’t see the need to get vaccinated. Fine more for me!

Since the P and M are two-shot doses, for those of you who like surprise endings, here’s a spoiler alert – don’t read on if you want a surprise that could happen after shot #2.

I had heard that most folks took the first shot reasonably well, but there was a fair chance that you could get a reaction from shot #2.

Who? Moi? I exercise six days a week, it couldn’t possible affect me.

Imagine my surprise when I work up the night after my second shot, teeth chattering, thirsty as a desert dog and walking into walls. My chills were so bad that three blankets and a robe did little to dissipate my fever. Oh, and don’t forget the aches. My bones felt like I was 90-years-old.

The next day, I googled “vaccine side-effects” and saw, yes, these were common. The good news I also read, was it was a sign the vaccine was doing its job and working its way through my system.

Well, that’s a relief.

Since that shot, I have recovered quite nicely, and had one really emotional evening. I cried profusely realizing with great gratitude that my loved ones (who all now have had at least one shot) and I had survived the worst of this gawd-awful pandemic. I realized how each and every human being on this planet suffered one of the worst years imaginable, and it is very humbling that a microscopic spiked ball could bring the world to its knees.

Coming out the other end, I find myself increasingly optimistic about our future and frequently hum that Gloria Gaynor anthem: “I Will Survive.”

Now, if I could stop having those dreams about little purple people sticking probes in my ears, I would be just fine.

And with that, I end this as “Poolside from PS.”

March 2021: The Ring

For those desiring to remember something frightening, this story is not about that wacky Japanese horror flick featuring a ghost with bad hair, but rather about a ring that goes on your finger.

Understanding that life in the desert comes with perennially dry hands, the other day while cleaning the kitchen I casually slipped off my wedding band and not-so-casually snapped on my yellow rubber gloves to avoid further chapping of my already battered fingers (ah, the arid desert). I placed the ring in one of the usual spots I’ve designated when doing kitchen stuff.

A while later, while watching the proclaimed worst film ever – “Plan Nine From Outer Space” – I subconsciously found myself rubbing my left land, fourth finger. Forgetting my earlier cleaning session, panic immediately shot through my hand and head – “Where was my wedding ring?”

To some of you, this may be familiar territory, those feelings of panic, cold sweat and dread that accompany the concept that perhaps you lost your wedding ring – forever destined to a future of blame and “How could you take IT off.”

Understand, I am 59.5 years old and up until last summer, I had never been married. I am not much into jewelry either, and as such, was not accustomed to having a noose, I mean a band, around that finger – or any other.

After two really long-term relationships that had different endings (both not-so-happy), I had resigned myself to a wed-less future. Truth be told, I really wasn’t that sad about it.

Until I met the Cuban.

After three years of dating it became clear – I wanted to be married! I didn’t need to be married, but somehow in this situation and at that time, I actually WANTED to be married. It wasn’t that I had this fantasy of walking down a rosebud-petaled path to the sounds of Vivaldi and the sight of teary-eyed loved ones, but rather simply that it felt right.

That’s right, there is no other way to explain it other than it felt right.

Three days before Valentine’s Day 2020 (I never do things when I’m supposed to), my future husband was in the kitchen preparing his lunch for work the next day (you know back when people actually drove off to work). All of a sudden, I knew it was now or never. “Can I ask you something?” I said as he cooked something over the stove.

“Yes?” he responded while stirring.

“Will you marry me?” the words shot out and I began to tear up.

“Wait, let me turn off the stove,” he said. (I know, so romantic!)

You can fill in the blanks with the kisses, hugs and “Wow, this is really happening” exclamations, but I suspected “yes” would be the answer and I knew this was the appropriate time to ask, not mushy old Valentine’s Day.

Unbeknownst to us, the months to follow would be met with the cloak of COVID, and my dreams of a large, beautiful wedding, eventually winnowed to a gathering of 15 masked family members and friends outside during one of the hottest days of July.

That didn’t matter. It was the loveliest day of my life.

So, snapping back to my dilemma, you can imagine how I felt when I could not feel that band of carbon and titanium enshrouded upon my finger.

I calmed myself and walked into the kitchen, easily finding my ring.

I had no idea that a ring could create such a presence in a person’s life, but now that I’m married, I get it. At times I absentmindedly find myself rubbing that metal band and it reminds me what has changed in my life. I treasure that thing, just as I treasure my spouse.

And now that another Valentine’s Day has passed and I realize that soon we will celebrate our first anniversary, that band holds tighter and symbolizes us together.

The ring is something that now reminds me that I am loved, and after some not-so-grand Valentine’s Days, I now understand that sometimes it can take almost a lifetime of “things” before you get to the “right thing.”

And with that, I end this as “Poolside from PS.”

PS Posts

Things I’ve Learned About Palm Springs: February 2020

As I approach my second anniversary of living full time in Palm Springs, I would like to share the top 10 things I have discovered about my little hot hamlet (in no particular order).

  • A combination of vinegar and Dawn (half and half, google for full directions) can solve many of the world’s ills. Palm Springs is infamous for its hard water which leaves annoying calcium residue everywhere (showers, coffee pots, the pet dog). A good soaking or spray makes the chalky mess disappear like magic — I’m convinced every local knows the formula.
  • Avoid grocery shopping from Friday through Sunday afternoon as that is when the “weekenders” are in town. Things move at a different pace in the desert, and lest you want to get sideswiped by a frantic shopping cart filled with lemon mineral water and bottles of Beaujolais, it’s best to avoid supermarkets during those peak times.
  • Speaking of weekenders… If you are considering moving here, understand the town looks quite “different” on week days then it does on weekends. When I was a weekender, I used to love to people watch all the beautiful, bodacious bods. Now I wonder at times if I moved to a geriatric ward.
  • July is my favorite month as the city takes on the appearance of a ghost town and it’s beautiful! Yes, it is hot, but remember, it’s a dry heat. August is my least favorite as we get the overflow monsoons from out Arizona way which bring a thick, soupy humidity accompanied by the smells of sulfur and rotting fish from the Salton Sea.
  • There seems to be this preoccupation with coyotes roaming the streets in search of small cats, dogs and children. At certain times, Nextdoor.com lights up with rashes of coyote sightings, oftentimes accompanied by photos and warnings of how they can scale 8-foot walls. “Bring in your babies!” the warnings taut.
  • People ask me, “How can you live in that inferno?” I simply respond: “Do you stay outside all day in [fill in name of home city here]?” Well, it’s no different out here, you simply develop a routine of either doing outdoor things early in the mornings or in the evenings (which are really beautiful).
  • At times you feel like you are living in a national park. Since the COVID invasion, I have taken up hiking and have learned that there is nothing that clears your head better than standing on top of a mountain. It really helps to put things in perspective, and to be able to witness the stunning vistas the Coachella Valley offers and the surrounding natural beauty is truly a gift.
  • People are very particular about their neighborhoods here. When I first moved I was asked by someone: “Where do you live?” I responded, “Movie Colony.” He then retorted, “East or West?” Really? I have since schooled myself on all the neighborhoods as they seem to hold the keys to some sort of secret social society. Hmmm, let’s see, we have Twin Palms, Sunrise Park, Demuth Park, Indian Wells; the list goes on and on.
  • That road-rager you just encountered may simply be, well, old. A few months after my arrival, I was turning into the Ralphs parking lot on Sunrise Way. Suddenly a rather large, sedan veered past me and came to a screeching stop in front of me. “Am I getting car-jacked?” I wondered. I waited a minute and the car didn’t move, nor could I see anyone in the driver’s seat. I finally decided to drive around the vehicle, and peering in, I saw a rather small old man who could barely see over the dashboard. He flashed a weak smile as if to say, “sorry”.
  • I did save my favorite for last – Palm Springs has great healing powers. I learned this when I first visited 30+ years ago and I still feel it today. There is a great sense of peace, calm and wonder here, and I am grateful each day that a dream I had carried throughout my entire working life came true. I see weekenders, once like me, come and marvel at the same beauty, and each morning, I walk my dog and peer upon the magnificent San Jacinto’s. I take in a deep breath and know all is right with the world.

And, with that, I end this as “Poolside from PS.”

Things I’ve Learned About Palm Springs

As I approach my second anniversary of living full time in Palm Springs, I would like to share the top 10 things I have discovered about my little hot hamlet (in no particular order).

  • A combination of vinegar and Dawn (half and half, google for full directions) can solve many of the world’s ills. Palm Springs is infamous for its hard water which leaves annoying calcium residue everywhere (showers, coffee pots, the pet dog). A good soaking or spray makes the chalky mess disappear like magic — I’m convinced every local knows the formula.
  • Avoid grocery shopping from Friday through Sunday afternoon as that is when the “weekenders” are in town. Things move at a different pace in the desert, and lest you want to get sideswiped by a frantic shopping cart filled with lemon mineral water and bottles of Beaujolais, it’s best to avoid supermarkets during those peak times.
  • Speaking of weekenders… If you are considering moving here, understand the town looks quite “different” on week days then it does on weekends. When I was a weekender, I used to love to people watch all the beautiful, bodacious bods. Now I wonder at times if I moved to a geriatric ward.
  • July is my favorite month as the city takes on the appearance of a ghost town and it’s beautiful! Yes, it is hot, but remember, it’s a dry heat. August is my least favorite as we get the overflow monsoons from out Arizona way which bring a thick, soupy humidity accompanied by the smells of sulfur and rotting fish from the Salton Sea.
  • There seems to be this preoccupation with coyotes roaming the streets in search of small dogs, cats and children. At certain times, Nextdoor.com lights up with rashes of coyote sightings, oftentimes accompanied by photos and warnings of how they can scale 8-foot walls. “Bring in your babies!” the warnings taut.
  • People ask me, “How can you live in that inferno?” I simply respond: “Do you stay outside all day in [fill in name of home city here]?” Well, it’s no different out here, you simply develop a routine of either doing outdoor things early in the mornings or in the evenings (which are really beautiful).
  • From April through September, carrying water everywhere is a must. Last year, I took a bike ride without water or my wallet. It got exceptionally warm and I got a flat tire. While walking my bike home, it was so hot I started getting dizzy. Fortunately, I found respite with water and at tree at Ruth Hardy Park.
  • People are very particular about their neighborhoods here. When I first moved I was asked by someone: “Where do you live?” I responded, “Movie Colony.” He then retorted, “East or West?” Really? I have since schooled myself on all the neighborhoods as they seem to hold the keys to some sort of secret social society. Hmmm, let’s see, we have Twin Palms, Sunrise Park, Demuth Park, Indian Wells; the list goes on and on.
  • That road-rager you just encountered may simply be, well, old. A few months after my arrival, I was turning into the Ralphs parking lot on Sunrise Way. Suddenly a rather large, sedan veered past me and came to a screeching stop in front of me. “Am I getting car-jacked?” I wondered. I waited a minute and the car didn’t move, nor could I see anyone in the driver’s seat. I finally decided to drive around the vehicle, and peering in, I saw a rather small old man who could barely see over the dashboard. He flashed a weak smile as if to say, “sorry”.
  • I did save my favorite for last – Palm Springs has great healing powers. I learned this when I first visited 30+ years ago and I still feel it today. There is a great sense of peace, calm and wonder here, and I am grateful each day that a dream I had carried throughout my entire working life came true. I see weekenders, once like me, come and marvel at the same beauty, and each morning, I walk my dog and peer upon the magnificent San Jacinto’s. I take in a deep breath and know all is right with the world.

And, with that, I end this as “Poolside from PS.”

December 2020: So You Wanna Be a Writer?

For as far back as I can remember, writing has been part of me. I penned my first short story when I was 8-years-old. It was called “Paperback” and it was about a boy in a wheelchair. My mom kept these early scribblings in a piano bench. One day she handed me a manila envelope stuffed with my early musings, and it made me smile: “What kind of kid..?”

Writing wasn’t something I gave much thought to, it was just something that I always did. Kind of like brushing your teeth or combing your hair.

The reason I now write about writing is that in January, I will release my first novel, “Coconut” Brown on the Outside, White on the Inside, which details the experiences of a Mexican-American family living in the San Fernando Valley during the 1960’s and 1970’s. It’s a bit autobiographical, but colored by broad strokes of fiction. I am excited about its debut as I first conceived of the novel when I was in my twenties. I let it gestate for 25 years before pulling it out of my head and putting it to paper.

Its completion is kind of like finally extricating an annoying little piece of steak that’s been stuck between your tooth and gum after long struggling to remove it. (Well, o.k. maybe not exactly like that, but kinda.)

Over the years I continually mulled over questions: What would “Coconut’s” characters be like? What would their behaviors be? What was I planning to accomplish by writing a novel?

As a backdrop to this “a-mull-ment,” understand that I have always loved words and English always came easy to me. In school, I could unfurl an essay as quickly as rolling out a yoga mat. I was a big fan of words, some would say “fancy” ones, but once you understand the difference between “vacillate” and “procrastinate,” it is clear how important the correct use of a word is.

I also ponder terms like “tuna fish.” It’s clear the use of “fish” is redundant, so why include it? And, don’t even get me started on the use of serial commas as it caused many a battle for me throughout my career (for the record, I do not put a comma after the “and,” in the last of a series).

Books are also an important part of the equation. When I was in grade school, I would read at least a book a week outside of class work. I loved to be taken to places beyond the realm of my existence. When I began working, the eventual long hours zapped all my concentration for things like trying to get through a book. Now, that I am “retired” I am returning to my love of reading, but I temper it with other things.

So how did I get to the point of novel preparedness?

After writing professionally for 35 years, two years ago I realized I had gotten to the point of “it’s now or never.” So I “retired.”

This new goal was frightening and daunting. Professionally, I knew business writing like nobody’s business, however fiction was a whole other ball game.

I have spent the last two years educating myself on novels and the book publishing business. It has indeed been a whole other ball game.

That said, “Coconut” finally found its way from my brain to a printer’s press. The other day my author’s copies arrived. I tore through the boxes like it was Christmas morning, and I looked at the cover and saw the image I had first envisioned so many years ago.

Now, with “Coconut’s” release, I suddenly feel quite vulnerable. What will readers think? What if I get negative reviews? What if no one reads it?

At this point, these things are not mine to decide, but I have to admit when I was proofing the galleys, a few chapters made me tear up. My hope is that others have the same reaction to the fruits of my journey which began all so long ago.

And, with that, I end this as “Poolside from PS.”

Coconut: Reviews

Review: Carlos B. Gil, Educator and Author of “We Became Mexican American: How Our Immigrant Family Survived to Pursue the American Dream.”

“The main reason I like this book is that the author drives the plot to a critical point, one that all of us Latinos can appreciate, one way or another (or Americans of recent immigrant origin). We don’t have to be college bred to recognize it. 

I’m referring to the conflicted inner voice the (characters) all hear with varying degrees of intensity. This is the voice that whispers to us Latinos regarding our identity about how we see ourselves and how we think others see us. How American do we look if we’re dark skinned and confronting a white American for the first time? We all face this moment.

The intensity of this voice varies according to the generation and the class we belong to, among other factors, in a family that still remembers its immigrant pioneers….” 

Review: Grant Leishman, Readers’ Favorite

“Coconut”: Brown on the Outside, White on the Inside by Manuel Padilla Jr. is the story of the Rodrigo family, a middle-class Mexican/American family living in the San Fernando Valley and having to deal with the prejudice and racism inherent in the color of their skin, despite their having lived in America and been citizens since the early 1900s. The question so many American citizens of Mexican extraction ask is: “Why do we not get the same rights and opportunities as our fellow white citizens?” The bulk of the novel focuses on young Aurelio or “Oree,” as he preferred to be known. Oree is a precocious young man whose first memories are of being taunted by other children because of the color of his skin –  Beaner, Wetback – he’s been called them all and a few more besides. Oree is a gifted child whose intelligence and aptitude for learning are apparent early on. Unfortunately, his family neither understands what a “gifted child” is nor can they afford to send Oree to any special school for gifted kids. Oree succeeds academically the hard way and by the time he readies for high school graduation, he is prepared to not only become the first person in his family to attend and graduate college, but he has his sights set high on the Ivy League school, Columbia University, all the way across the other side of the country. Will the pull of the culture of the family hold him back from fulfilling his dream and his promise?

Coconut is fascinating because it highlights a civil rights struggle that few of us have probably read about before, that of the Latino community and the prejudice they face, which is similar but also starkly different in many ways to that experienced by African Americans. Author Manuel Padilla Jr. did an excellent job of characterizing the unique family and religious experience of many Latinos that poses both problems but also support structures for young Latinos as they try to improve their lot in society. I particularly liked Oree’s argument about changing the dynamic and objective as each successive generation grew up and went into the world. The author does an excellent job of delving into the family dynamics of the Rodrigos and exposing the cultural and generational differences that occur, plus the anomalies of trying to balance and hold onto the culture left behind in Mexico with the realities of living in a predominantly white Anglo-Saxon world. One could feel, for example, the latent anger in Oree at his parents not teaching him Spanish as a child because they didn’t view that as compatible with being American. This is an easy to read and interesting look at a generational culture shift in Latinos and one I can definitely recommend.

Giving Thanks: November 2020

As November is the month for giving thanks, in reflecting upon 2020, I was faced with a conundrum – How does one give thanks amidst a global pandemic? And, is it appropriate to be thankful during this time?

There are those many whose lives have been lost, and the countless sick, but also, America is in the midst of great turmoil. Each day, I think we all wake up with the question: “What else could possibly go wrong?”

I’d rather not think about that, so I will instead offer my “Top 5 Things to be Thankful For”:

  1. The friends and family lifeline. This year, perhaps more so than at any other time in the past, I have been in ongoing contact with family and friends. We are communicating far more often than pre-pandemic, and even though we may not physically see each other, the group texts without end, extended phone calls and the lengthy e-mails have made me greatly appreciate all those who I am fortunate to have in my life.
  2. We were able to push the “reset” button. Face it, life had been flying by at warp speed before the first COVID droplet ever hit the U.S., but when that happened, everything stopped, stalled and was issued a cease and desist order. I don’t know about you, but the past nine months have provided me with many opportunities to reflect upon what is truly important in life – and also, what is not.
  3. I reconnected with nature. This was not by choice. I am an avid gym goer, but when those were shuttered, I was forced to find ways to exercise – outside. At first, the thought of riding my cobwebbed, dusty bike was foreign, but I quickly regained my sense of balance and leg strength. Living in Palm Springs, we are flush with a number of amazing hiking trails which really opened my lungs and eyes to the wealth of beauty found in nature.
  4. We were given a reminder of the importance of humility. While watching the nightly news, I cannot tell you the number of times I was silenced by the sobering images of body bags being kept in refrigeration units; the countless families, their pain exposed on a national level; the faces of doctors whose cheeks were blistered by wearing PPE. It is very humbling to see all this going on, and to understand and appreciate that it could just as easily be you and your loved ones. I hope I have gained a greater sense of empathy for the pain and suffering of my fellow humans.
  5. I got married. You didn’t think I’d end a piece about thanks on a note of sadness, so here’s the happy ending. At the tender age of 59, I finally got married – for the first time in my life! Going through this year made me acutely aware of the importance of seizing every moment, of alleviating myself of the fears that in the past may have restricted me, and of the importance of being the moment – for however long that time may last. So, hallelujah, I am thankful for tying the knot.

As I write, I find there are so many more things I am thankful for. Yes, it has been an incredibly weird, absolutely strange and totally unforgettable time (try though I may), but amidst all this chaos, there is a silver lining. And, I have discovered, these “linings” are the greatest gifts we can be thankful for.

And, with that I end this “Poolside From PS.”

The Patron of Ramon Road: September 2020

No one seems to know how the Patron of Ramon Road was anointed to his post. Nor, do they seem to really care. Each day he stands – tall, thin, sunbaked and regal – at the corner of a printing establishment and Ramon Road. Throughout the morning, he performs a royal wave of his American flag; a big smile stretching across the crevices of his face. At times a car honks; sometimes they pull over and hand him a dollar or two.

The Patron takes great care in his role and he arrives at his post each day around 9 a.m. Rumor has it that he sleeps in a nearby field and gets up early to bathe himself with one of the water hoses at the many nearby industrial buildings. The desert being what it is, he dries off quickly. He is meticulous about the few possessions he has, all of which he carefully stores in his Radio Flyer 36 red wagon. He is a familiar site along Ramon headed toward Cathedral City.

America’s Tire Store is a few blocks away from his post, and as I was waiting one day to have my tires fixed, I decided to walk along Ramon. It was a dry spring morning; headed westward, I spied the Patron in my approaching path.

As I drew closer, he sat down upon his wagon. He was fumbling for something in the cart, and then he pulled up a slightly used cigarette, lifting it like it was a prize in a box of Cracker Jack. He smiled a half-toothless grin and asked, “Do you have a match? I can’t find my lighter.” As he toyed with the unlit cigarette, I looked upon his calloused hands, weathered fingers and the deep lines that drew across his face and around his deep set eyes. Unconsciously, I looked for clues as to who this person was or could have once been.

I looked at him and replied, “I don’t smoke anymore. Don’t you know it can kill you?”

He let out a deep belly laugh, “Like standing in 100 degree heat can’t?”

I don’t know why, but suddenly I felt calm in his presence and stammered out an, “Uh huh.”

“You know, I didn’t always hang on the streets,” he continued. “I came out here a few years ago from Oakland. I was told there was tons of date picking in Indio and as I was so tired of the Northern California cold, I said to myself, ‘time to head south.’ I was never one of those who liked to settle – down or otherwise. I enjoyed the freedom to go when and where I pleased. I’d seen postcards of PS and it looked nice enough, so off I went.”

“I’ll never forget the night I got into town,” he said oblivious to the fact that I might not have cared to hear his story or that I may have had other things to do. I had another 30 minutes until my car would be ready, so I let him continue. “When the bus got into Palm Springs, I put my hand on the window – it was hot. Coming into town on the 111, I was amazed that instead of street lamps, there were spot lights that lit up the Palm trees along Palm Canyon Drive – kinda like Christmas.

“As the bus drove through downtown, I was mesmerized — right here in the middle of the night, folks were walking around in t-shirts, shorts and sandals. No more looking for doorways on a cold night!”

I sensed his mind was searching for a start or finish, and I was beginning to wonder if his story had a point. “So, what happened to date picking?”

“Ah, that was a pipe dream,” he replied, putting his unsmoked cigarette back into his wagon. “I met up with a few fellow travelers by the bus depot downtown and they clued me into all the free, local services. Here I can get fed, there are places you can cool off when it’s too hot and I get to see all these nice people on the street. I like my freedom, love my freedom. If I don’t have to punch a clock, I will avoid it at all costs. Did you know, I can walk into pretty much any store along Palm Canyon and they’ll give you free water? And, it’s like they’re glad to do it.

“You know Palm Springs is a resort town, so folks here are generally nicer – and better tippers if I wave my flag the right way,” he again continued, drawing his flag in a wide circle. “My favorite part of the day is when I lay down under the blanket of stars and think about how good I got it. It doesn’t get much better than this. I’m not one of those types who lost everything because of booze or dope. I never hurt no one and I don’t steal. I just don’t like to be closed in or be kept to any schedule. I like my freedom. Love my freedom.”

From there, his mind seemed to drift, and I figured I had overstayed my introduction. It was beginning to warm up and I wondered if he would have been so energetic had I come across him at 3 in the afternoon.

“I gotta get back to my car,” I said motioning at my watch.

“Uh huh,” he responded while he dug around again in his wagon. “Found it. My lighter!”

As I began to walk away, I feigned an imaginary tip of the hat toward him, thinking it a more appropriate response than a kiss of a royal ring (should he have one somewhere in his wagon). I left, feeling glad I got to meet the Patron of Ramon Road. At times when I see him, I give him a buck or two, not sure if he remembers me or not.

And, with that, I end this as “Poolside from PS.”

What Does Racism Feel Like: July 2020

For as far back as I can recall I’ve been aware of my color – I’m not black, I’m brown, not even dark brown, but brown enough.

This first I can remember was when I was 5-years-old. I was in a park and another child called me a “dirty beaner.” I didn’t really know what a beaner was, but she had such an angry tone that I figured it was very bad.

You might ask, “How could you remember something that long ago?”

Anyone who has ever been maligned because of their race, will tell you that it leaves quite an impression. It’s something you feel in your gut, like you’re being looked at or treated differently with no explanation as to why. Quite often, you experience a sense of shame, a feeling that you aren’t good enough, that you don’t deserve the same place on this planet. Kind of like getting punched in the gut when you’re not prepared for it.

In high school, I was shopping for a graduation suit from a department store. In the store, I saw a rack of beautiful coats. A white clerk came up to me and, looking me up and down, remarked, “Perhaps I can show you something you could afford.”

She had a coarse tone in her voice and I had the sense she didn’t want me in her store. Again, it was clear I didn’t belong there, nor was I wanted there.

That same year, I was preparing for college. I met with my high school counselor who said, “You’ll have no problem getting a scholarship as you’re Mexican – foundations love minorities.”

Keep in mind I had almost a 4.0 GPA. I was so incensed that I told him, “I don’t want anybody’s money because of the color of my skin.”

Because of that incident, I did not apply for any scholarships, went to a state university – and paid my own way.

After graduation, I began applying for writing jobs. I remember interviewing for a position at a Christian publishing company. I spoke with two principals, both being very encouraging; they even asked when I could start working as they looked upon their calendars.

At the end of the interview I was asked to sit in the lobby which overlooked pools of writing cubicles. I noticed something – everyone in the room was white. I didn’t think much of it, until one of the principals came out and said, “You did a great job interviewing. You seem really talented, but we’re just seeing what’s on the market, not looking to hire. We’ll be happy to write you a letter of recommendation if you want.”

That was odd. Why write a letter when I hadn’t worked there? They thanked me profusely for my time. I really felt in my heart the job was mine, but when I saw the job reposted the following week, I had a good sense why.

As I matured, I came to better understand that the problem was not me, even though I happened to be the recipient of the action.

One time, while registering to vote, a person near the registration table uttered, “Don’t you need a green card to vote?” Another time while visiting a garden store, an old white woman looked at me while standing in line and said with disdain, “Well, are you going to help me with these bags or not?”

I know, you may be saying “Get over it already.” But, you see, when you experience things like this throughout your lifetime, it becomes very tiresome having to explain yourself or to be on guard that under certain circumstances you should anticipate a possible “situation.”

Yes, I am angry that people of color still have to feel this way.

I’ve written a novel about racism in the 1960’s, but am having challenges finding representation. I’ve learned the majority of literary agents are white females residing in and around New York. I’ve also discovered that 79% of publishing industry executives are white males. It may sound racist, but I have to wonder if these people have encountered what most minorities have. Could they possibly relate to my novel or see its merit? I won’t even get into the numbers of books published by minorities, but suffice it to say, it’s small, even though our numbers are large.

As I have gotten quite defiant at this point in life, I will not settle for being overlooked. If I have to self-publish I will, not just because of my ego, but because there may be some other young minorities out there who are just getting their first taste of what it’s like to be prejudged.

I want them to know, that they’re not alone.

And, with that, I end this as “Poolside from PS.”