PS Posts

Giving Thanks: December 2021

It’s not often that you’re given a second chance, but I’m smart enough to know – when it happens, carpe diem! It is because of this opportunity redux that I now find myself giving thanks for gifts I didn’t realize were right in front of me.

My understanding of the importance of this came during the recent wedding of my niece. The family lives in Fresno, so coming from Southern California, I guess you could define it as a “destination wedding” – well, for me at least.

My spouse and I drove my mother up north the day before the grand event. I love my mother, but like most moms, the thought of spending 3 to 4 hours driving through dust fields and produce orchards with her was a bit daunting.

While I was in the work force (I am now “retired”), on trips such as these, my mind was always preoccupied with thoughts of what I needed to be doing at work, rather than focusing on what I was presently doing, such as driving Miss Daisy, I mean my mother. This caused me to at times become annoyed with the banter – didn’t people realize I had important stuff going on?

Strangely, this time it was different.

We arrived at our hotel, checked in and soon were meeting my siblings and their families for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. In the past, my mind would have been muddled with thoughts about which deadline I had to meet or which project needed completion, rushing through dinner so I could get back to the hotel room and check my work emails.

What I learned after ending my career a few years back, was how much of an intrusion all that corporate ladder-climbing caused on my familial and personal life. As that part of life has ended, I now find my mind free to enjoy the presence of other people.

As we sat through dinner, the conversation flowed freely; my great-niece and nephew who are toddlers kept the table entertained with their antics. I asked myself, “Why didn’t I see this when my own nieces and nephews were that age?” I was also amazed how much laughter was taking place. I didn’t seem to recall that in my past life.

It is probably because I was so obsessed with the next job, the next promotion, the next, well you get the point.

The following day was the wedding. As we sat during the beautiful ceremony I looked over at my nephew who was playing with his niece, my grand-niece. She was thoroughly enjoying the situation and as I looked up at the altar to see my niece who was being wed, it reminded me that I too once played with her like that.

I realized the profundity of the passing of years. I recall my constant ladder-climbing while my nieces and nephews grew. I missed many family events as I was always working or traveling for work. They didn’t seem to mind my absence and refer to me as their “funcle.” Inside I knew, it was all smoke and mirrors, I was playing with them while planning my next career move.

During the wedding dinner, I felt somehow different. I noticed how young everyone seemed. Suddenly, I was sitting at the “old people’s” table and I was unexpectedly fine with it. There was music, toasts and dancing, and through the joy of it all, something happened – I became quiet in myself.

I looked at all my family scattered throughout the room, and realized these people have always been a part of my life, whether I wanted it or not. And, they were always there if and whenever I needed them – whether I realized or acknowledged it or not.

I understood it was now my time to be part of it; to accept it for what it is.

At one point in the evening, one of my sister-in-laws pulled me out of my seat, “Let’s dance Manuel.” Before we knew it, my spouse and other family members joined us, and as we moved with the beats of the music, I felt washed over in the knowledge that these people were and are all a part of me. It is an indescribable feeling.

I know, some people may be saying “Well, you don’t know my family” and that is true, and this isn’t meant as a slight to those who can’t have relationships with their families. In my case, for too many years I kept mine at a comfortable distance as I was always the “different one,” understanding that they couldn’t possible appreciate who I truly was.

Now, I see, it doesn’t matter.

They have their flaws and I have mine, but now I see when we’re together, none of that is important. What matters is we have these wonderful and sometimes complicated memories which are part of our bond. We have blood ties and we share a long and complex history. We are also creating new memories for be called upon in future times.

Since our return, I haven’t been able to shake the feelings I experienced in Fresno. I wonder “How did I not see all of this for so many years?” 

I realize it was a trade-off. By sacrificing time spent with loved ones I was able to secure an early retirement.

When I stopped working, I vowed to myself to make up for the lost time. I have since made concerted efforts to take my mother to doctors’ appointments and to do other “family” things. My trip to Fresno proved it can be done – and be enjoyable at that.

I give thanks for having all these crazy, lovely people in my life, and I look forward… I look forward to my other nieces’ and nephews’ nuptials and to seeing my great-nieces and nephews growing and continuing our family line.

And, when the time comes for me to pack it in, I know I will smile as after all the years of neglect, I made it all back – I will give thanks for being given a second chance to appreciate the things that surround us each and every day.

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

Just Who Is Nextdoor: November 2021

When I first bought my home in Palm Springs you can imagine my excitement at receiving an email inviting me to get local updates on my very own “Movie Colony East” neighborhood. 

The web site was Nextdoor.com and I signed up and put up my first post. “Hi, I’m Manny and I look forward to meeting all my new neighbors!” So many “thumb’s ups” and “hello’s”; I felt so welcome.

Back then I was still a “weekender,” commuting back and forth to Los Angeles. I felt at ease while away as I kept apprised on my little hamlet with updates on things like crime, coyote-spottings and a plethora of lost and found pets.

For the unknowing, Nextdoor.com defines itself as “the neighborhood hub for trusted connections and the exchange of helpful information, goods, and services.”

What I have since learned is that it can also be a forum for caustic, over-bearing, anger-filled personalities – which can be quite entertaining if you’re in the right frame of mind for that sort of thing.

I discovered the dark side of Nextdoor.com when I moved here permanently. At first everyone seemed so very nice and civil and helpful and made me feel oh-so-welcome in the place I chose as my retirement home. One post even saved my Tecoma Yellow Belles from a horrible skeleton moth invasion (heck I didn’t even know I had a Tecoma Belle before seeing it on Nextdoor).

Then, the pandemic hit.

It was as though a seismic shift happened overnight – imagine the magic kingdom turning into nightmare on elm street.

Suddenly, comments were littered with pejoratives such as “idiot,” “fool” and “I’ll squash you.”

Really? Where did all the civility go?

Suddenly Nextdoor felt uncomfortable. At one point, I responded to a post and received a response: “Well, Manny Padilla, you’re just a plain, stupid idiot.”

Huh? I checked to see who wrote the comment as I figured it must be someone I knew. I thought a total stranger who knew absolutely nothing about me couldn’t possibly call me a stupid idiot.  It usually takes a while to figure that out about me.

But, then, there it was, plain as day. A total stranger had indeed called me a stupid idiot.

I wanted to lash out (I’ll show them who’s an idiot!), but after taking a few deep breaths, decided to take the high road.

“Dear XX, there really is no need to call a total stranger a ‘stupid idiot.’ I would hope we’re all more civil than that.”

So there.

I must have got the person where he/she lived, as they sent back an apology.

I found myself one day walking through the supermarket and wondering: “Could that be the man who called me an idiot?” No, he seems too nice. I continued, “Could that be the lady who posted something saying they’d die before wearing a mask as they aren’t a sheep.” No, she’s too old and frail-looking.

From then on, I’ve learned to be more cautious about my questions and responses. This has been trickier as it seems every post lately ends up taking a political slant.

For example, a recent discussion on a proposed Palm Springs disposal fee increase. Within a few comments on the thread, responses started drifting to “Whatever is costing us more money, I think we all know who is responsible…”  (Insert subsequent banter here.)

Huh? I knew the president had power, but I didn’t know he was powerful enough to increase rates on our local trash pick-up.

We also have a ton of posts on local crime. If you’re new to Nextdoor.com, you might think we have a crime happening every second here (which isn’t the case, I check the stats). Yet, there it is, once again, plain for all to see: “Crime is out of control and the city does nothing and it’s because of who we have as elected officials – especially in Washington!”

And then, that topic and thread, like so many others before it, goes down the worm hole.

Another popular theme is COVID. Yes, we’re talking masks and vaccines.

There have been a few posts about “XX supermarket isn’t enforcing mask protocols, boycott it!” or “They didn’t ask for my vaccine card at XX restaurant – nobody go there. They’re killing people!!!!”

O.k., I exaggerate, but some of the posts and responses are akin to that. Seriously.

Yes, I understand how serious COVID is (lest I be called a stupid idiot again), but I do understand that at this point in the game, everyone knows what’s at stake and what the rules are. I find it hard to try to go after local businesses over something that truly is out of their control. So I refuse to jump on that band wagon.

As you can see, posting on Nextdoor.com these days can be a bit of a minefield. As mentioned, I’ve learned to tread lightly.

However, every week or so, I’ll see a post which gives me hope anew. “Hi, I’m XX, I just moved here and look forward to meeting all my new neighbors.”

Be careful what you wish for…

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

Learning to Detach: October 2021

Take a deep breath for five long seconds. Hold it for five. Now, release for five.

Doesn’t that feel much better?

If the above sounds familiar, it is because it is a commonly used breathing technique to help reduce stress. And, it’s been something I’ve been practicing a lot lately.

You see, it appears that just when we thought things in the world were settling down and that big ole’ nasty virus was gonna be a ghost in our rear view mirror, things have again amped up.

For me at least, they’re at a point where I feel the need to “detach” – for lack of a better term. I am learning however, this “detachment” does not come easily and it does indeed take practice – lots and lots of it.

Once news hit that a vaccine was being rolled out, I think many of us – falsely – assumed it would just be a matter of time before everyone received their shot and we could once and for all get back to normal after a stressful year or restrictions, death and disease.

Spoiler alert: I never thought there would be a debate over actually taking the darn vaccine.

We’ve all had lots of vaccines – for the measles, mumps, tetanus – but this one is different. It has not been around for as long. And, its debut came attached with some political debris. It seems folks decided to turn medicine into politics and suddenly the roll out of this vaccine became fraught with debate.

As we’ve continued to see new outbursts of variants, we all agree – this has gone on long enough. One day out of frustration I posted on Facebook: “To the unvaccinated: Your ‘personal choice’ is killing people!”

Uh oh, danger Will Robinson.

Suddenly, I learned several of my family members had not been vaccinated nor do they have any intentions of doing so (from what I’ve read many families are experiencing this). It was bad enough to have the realization that one of my family members could get sick and possibly die because of their unwillingness to follow a health protocol, but what made it worse was that I started a bit of a spiff online, right there on my FB post.

I did not anticipate this and did not want it. Suddenly the “us vs. them” was within my family and it was causing me personal distress. I did my best to quell the situation and then came to a decision – “Manny, you have to detach from these conversations and this situation. It is way too stressful and could cause damage to your relationships.”

Oye, is that easier said than done.

I avoided social media for a bit, dialed down my news consumption and began practicing meditation again, saying to myself “You can only control yourself and your reaction to things, nothing more. The universe continues to unfold as it should and this all shall pass…

…Now breathe Manny!”

With that breath came calm. I tested it out by looking at Facebook and Twitter (I wasn’t going to let any post get my goat!).  With practice, it began to work.

Having conquered Facebook, I decided to try nextdoor.com as I knew that would be an even greater challenge.

For those of you who don’t know nextdoor.com, it is a web site where folks post information about things going on in their local neighborhoods. It can also be a hotbed of malcontents who anonymously go for the throats of any neighbors who don’t agree with them.

I looked at the posts: “They didn’t check for vaccine proof at this restaurant – boycott it!” “People walked around without masks in the supermarket – report the management!”

My fingers trembled at the keyboard. I wanna, I wanna, I wanna…. Breathe five, four, three… My fingers calmed and my brain slowed down.

I learned an obvious yet valuable lesson: “You don’t have to respond to everything.”

There are still days when my fingers get the best of me (don’t get me started on political memes), but I am finding myself to be much more content by not responding to every little post that screams: “Respond to me!”

My outlook is improving and I am resolved that “Whatever people do with their lives comes with consequences which don’t necessarily involve me.” As I’m getting better at this detachment thing, I’ll leave it at that.

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

The Persistence of Memory: September 2021

These days, memories perplex me.

It’s not that I forget them, nor is it time to start investing in Prevagen, but rather that they persist in taking up valuable brain space, much more so than in the past. Thus, I find there is often little room in my over-taxed, pint-size brain to store them all, so they sometimes flood past the gates designed to keep them at bay.

All that it takes to set them off is a simple trigger – a sight, smell or perhaps a sound. Then, like the blocks of a Jenga game, they fall, cascading across the widescreen of my brain which at times confuses and overwhelms me with emotion. How can these memories which are things of the past persist so in the present?

At a recent family gathering I was holding my seven-month-old grand (or is it great?) nephew. While he sat on my lap trying to make sense of this strange man smiling down at him, for an ever-so-brief moment, I saw the face of his mother, my niece, who I also held when she was a child at that age.

That triggered a flood of memories and emotions – that niece is now in her thirties and this is her second child. I looked around at my other nieces and nephews and recalled when they were babies, and now, how they as adults, are no longer the children I used to see dressed as nuns or pirates on Halloween. It confuses me as I realize how quickly all those years passed, far too quickly. I question: “Did I take time to enjoy that moment enough while it was happening?”

As I age, I find that memories are beginning to take on a greater presence in my life. I stopped working two years ago and I no longer feel pressured to actually do anything, so my brain fills in that once busy activity with memories of what I used to do.

This “free time” is both a blessing and a curse. I once had a boss tell me “You really need to stop and smell the roses” and once while I whined to a cousin about how I couldn’t fit everything into 24 hours, she (a recent empty-nester) replied, “Be careful what you wish for bud. You won’t always be so busy and then you may want those hours back.”

At that point in time, I couldn’t imagine what she meant. Throughout my professional career, I was what you would call a “Type AAA” personality and I tore through my days like tissue paper.

All that hustle put me in a good position when it came time to jump off the merry-go-round. Now, two years into “retirement,” I have fond memories of the time of work, but they are just that and never to return. I appreciate that I have them and when I talk to those who still work, I can call upon those experiences for purposes of conversation, they just aren’t mine anymore.

Memories can be tricky as they aren’t always accurate, nor nice. They can be painful and their emergence can feel like a band-aid ripped off a fresh wound. When that happens, I take a calming breath and say to myself, “That’s in the past now and not part of the present.” I quiet my brain and move the needle skipping on my mental record to a new track.

Every now and then, friends who I’ve known since grade or high school (thank goodness for Facebook) will bring up something that happened when we were young. Then, clear as day, everything comes flooding back. It might be the memory of a school dance or one of the many school plays I took part in. I can still smell the hot dogs of a Friday night football game and the taste of fried tacos from a school fiesta. It amazes me how clear and present they seem, like they had only happened yesterday.

And then I find myself sitting there, questioning: Where did those 45 years go? And, what of the next? Will I be sitting here 20 years from now warmed by the thought of the sweet smell of a delicious ahi tuna I had last week?

It’s all o.k. I keep all these memories close at hand and when I need to, I can pull them out of the mental filing cabinet and review them at my leisure like photos in an album. Some are good and some I am fine bypassing, but they none-the-less remind me that they are what makes me who I am today, and for that I feel fortunate.

Perhaps memories are a gift that is given as a reminder of the lives we have all led. Just a thought.

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

Aging Has Its Advantages: August 2021

I recently hit that golden plateau – you know the big 6-0! Even though the awareness that I likely have between 20- to 30-years left on planet earth freaked me out a bit, I have since adopted the “Emperor Wears News Clothes” approach to life and am boldly moving into the last third of my life.

So, what does that mean in lay person’s terms? As Rhett Butler once uttered, “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn!”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m, not hell bent on wreaking havoc upon humanity, but I have come to realize that aging does has its advantages, and that older people can get away with a lot more than when we were younger.

Let’s start with senior discounts. There are a vast array available at retailers everywhere. That said, they all have different age parameters, some start at 55, some 60, some 62, etc. Since it is often confusing who offers which discount (and as I realize to younger people think EVERYONE over 30 looks cadaverous), I simply say “senior discount.”

Haven’t been questioned once. This works particularly well at movie theaters and with online ticket purchases (face it, most of the people working at theaters look like they’re 12-years-old and I likely remind them of “gramps”).


Door opening. I am still big on opening doors for people, but lately I’ve been having doors opened for moi: “After you sir…” At first, I was like, “Is this akin to being called ‘Sweetie’ or ‘Dear’?” Then, I thought, “Who cares?” It is nice that after all those decades of gentlemanly door-opening that folks now think enough of the lines on my face to open a door or two for me.

Airport lines. I have gotten really ballsy with this one since I was told if you give the airline check-in person one of those sweet, little-old smiles, they don’t seem to mind if you board with group “2” rather than the “7” you’re really in. This works particularly well if you use the Puss in Boots sad face from “Shrek” or force a limp.

Attire. Remember how you were told never to wear white after Labor Day (or is it Memorial Day)? As we age, all bets are off. Now, you can dress as you please. Feel free to pair those camo shorts with the striped Ben Sherman pocket shirt. 

Disneyland. I don’t necessarily recommend this one as Disneyland is pretty adept to ensuring everyone receives equal treatment, however the point of our recent trek to Anaheim was to get on the “Star Wars – Rise of the Resistance” ride (which btw is beyond AWESOME!). As it is so popular, it is one of the few rides at Disneyland where you get in an automated queue via Disney’s app. After a few attempts, we were put in boarding queue 210 which had an estimated entry time of 4 p.m. I excitedly checked the app throughout the afternoon and at 2:30, the ride broke down, re-opening sometime thereafter. Suddenly our 4 p.m. entry became 5, then 6:30, 7 and finally 8:15.

We debated staying as the park closed at 9 and there was no guarantee we’d get on, but I was bound and determined to be attacked by storm troopers and see those light sabers cutting through ceilings. We ate dinner early and then meandered over to Star Wars land.

My spouse said, “Lemme see if we can get on sooner.” He went up to a seasoned park employee, pointed to the phone app and said “This is unacceptable. Can’t we get on sooner?”

Wrong approach.

I implored him to try again with another employee. This time he picked someone younger, a person who could perhaps be his grandson (get where this is going?). Then he uttered the magic words only an old person could use….

“We’ve waited all day and it is getting dark – my friend can’t drive at night” (which is kinda true at this point as I am not that comfortable driving after dusk).

Bingo. It was as if someone said “Shazam” and we quickly found ourselves squirreled through a secret entrance to the front of the ride’s line.

Now, I do not recommend doing the aforementioned activities if you are somewhat timid, prone to heavy perspiration or could not possibly consider doing anything other than what is the 100% honest and proper thing to do.

That said, if you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your life following 100% of the rules, and you’ll also likely be dead in a few decades. It may be time to loosen the reins on that oh-so-moral life we are told we must live.

You see how this mindset shift can be so freeing? So liberating?

I see how these little extra-curricular activities might be a gateway drug, next could be lying about my age, shoplifting, even bank robbery.

Well, those are all things to consider, but I am not too concerned. A lot of folks tell me at this age they feel “invisible” and I won’t dispute that. I’m just saying, we may as well take advantage of what we can. I’m all for having fun, and heck, if it doesn’t hurt me or anyone else, why not color outside of the lines a bit as you see, aging does have its advantages.

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

Massive Marilyn Moons Museum: July 2021

Anyone who lives in Palm Springs knows the most divisive debate taking place over recent months was not whether to mask or not, but rather where to place — or where not to place — the iconic Marilyn Monroe statue, “Forever Marilyn,” as she makes her triumphant return to the desert.

This towering 26-foot sculpture first made its way to Palm Springs in 2012. Marilyn seemed right at home in our happy little hamlet. Locals and tourists flocked to Palm Canyon Drive, looking for an opportunity to be photographed amidst one of the most renowned scenes in film history – you know “The Seven Year Itch” where Marilyn’s skirt floats up as she stands over a subway grate: “Isn’t it delicious!” (Her words, not mine.)

Adults and children making their mecca to the monument, marveled alike. Marilyn’s platinum coif shimmered like swirled ice cream; her parted lips, the color of fresh cherries; the infamous cream-colored dress sculpted ever so delicately despite the fact it is made out of steel. And, then those panties floating blithely over our heads.

During Marilyn’s inaugural reign, I noticed two distinct photos on everyone’s list: Shot #1, standing in front of the statue, sometimes mimicking the pose (works better if you’re a woman or a man in drag), always smiling. They then quickly moved onto Shot #2 – standing between Marilyn’s legs, some even pointing up, always laughing by now.

“Forever Marilyn” had and has an amazing power to bring joy to people. That no one can debate. However now that she returns, we have found plenty to talk about.

Mainly, her new home will position her in front of the Palm Springs Art Museum — her posterior poised directly toward the entrance.

Yes, Marilyn will be mooning the museum – for at least the next few years.

This placement and positioning has been at the center of the Marilyn debate. There have been petitions, protests, even lawsuits over attempts to prevent Marilyn from taking residency at her new home. None has prevailed.

Seems everyone has gotten their panties in a bunch over Marilyn. Buy why this time?

First, the #Me Too Movement has rightfully changed a lot of misogynistic mentalities. Second, the location fronting the museum (which btw, Marilyn is well over a block away from the museum entrance, so it’s not like a big affront). We’re even hearing comments: “Do we want our children exposed to Marilyn’s panties!!!!!”

Have you seen what your kids watch on TV? Caught any music videos lately? Been to bar on a Saturday night? “Forever Marilyn” seems quite tame in comparison to those, and let’s not forget, Marilyn built her legacy upon sex appeal; she was quite adept at using this tool to her benefit.

Beauty and art are in the eye of the beholder. As I type these words, there is a ’68 Chevy Malibu suspended over a pit of water outside the above-mentioned museum, and then there are the alien babies climbing the walls nearby (I hope they don’t climb up Marilyn’s skirt!). Let’s not forget all the purple, orange and lime green architectural touches which dot our fair city.

I say, ban ‘em all! After all, Palm Springs is a cultured resort town, not a tacky Atlantic City boardwalk. We can’t have our drawers showing!

That said, Marilyn’s return to the city and the surrounding bruhaha has garnered Palm Springs international attention, which ain’t bad for our economy.

Marilyn creates a big tourist draw and that means jobs for locals (I was surprised when I saw a local shop owner being the most vocal about Marilyn’s placement. Just who does she think purchases her day glo fashions?).

I digress and don’t get me started. I realized when I moved to a resort/retirement community, I might encounter a different communal mindset. That said, with all that’s going on in the world – is it necessary to get so vehement over a piece of metal?

I say, “Relax!” It’s just a statue. It is iconic. It is something that brings joy to people. Isn’t that something to be applauded not looked upon with disdain?

I never thought I’d welcome the often incessant “coyote alert” updates, but I prefer that noise over the calamitous comments from the “Move Marilyn” minions.

Welcome home Marilyn.

Like a Vacation, Only Different: June 2021

Thinking of taking a vacation? Think again. You may find yourself needing a vacation from that vacation as I recently discovered after taking flight to The Land of Enchantment, a.k.a. New Mexico.

I believe this year, trips will be like vacations – only different (am I the only one who loathes this phrase?).

Like many during the pandemic, I had been in possession of some un-booked flight credits that were set to expire. We had been planning a May cruise to Alaska but when those plans got docked, we thought a trip to the southwest might make for a nice, relaxing substitute.

It was so, but not entirely, and please don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those people who whines at every little thing while traveling, in fact I’ve been told, I am fairly easy to travel with.

That said, we arrived at Burbank International Airport early one recent Saturday morning. Anyone who travels out of Burbank knows Lots A and C are the long-term parking areas that are the most reasonable in price. When we arrived we discovered they were both closed and had been since the pandemic started (this was our first trip out of Burbank since 2019).

We scrambled to find an open lot with the clock ticking away to our departure time. The other longer-term lots were all full and the only alternatives were the $32 a day short-term lot and valet (which actually would have been cheaper, but they had no prices listed, so I said “na-ah”).

We finally found a spot on the roof of the short-term lot and made our way to the gate. On the flight, a woman sitting across me began coughing profusely. She then proceeded to remove her mask as she hacked up a lung. WWHHAATT?  I asked, “Can you please put on your mask?” to which she complied.

Now, I am fully vaccinated and had my mask on tight as a drum, so I wasn’t too concerned. I was wrong. Two days into our trip, I developed a sore throat which after a few days turned into some sort of bug (not THAT bug). Thank you to the lady who was selfish enough to travel while sick and then take off your mask to infect fellow passengers.

We arrived in Albuquerque and had a hotel booked near Old Town Plaza. I figured we could walk there and grab a bite. I was wrong. The map on the hotel web site was a bit deceiving, so we had to drive. As we strolled upon the Plaza at 5:30 on a Saturday evening, we discovered… everything was closed! That’s right, “Cerrado” signs were strewn across the plaza like Mexican Papel Picado doilies.

We finally found a pseudo-Southwest restaurant in a hotel. It had the best tortilla chips ever. (We had a 45 minute wait for a table, and then nearly as long to get dinner, so I had plenty of time to enjoy them.)

We wanted to visit Acoma Pueblo – “The Sky City.” I was looking to book a reservation for a walking tour and called before departure as I couldn’t find a “buy tickets” button on the web site. “I’m sorry, the Reservation is closed, be safe,” was the response.  I went back to the web site and scrolled all the way down to the bottom of the very bottom and there it said: “Acoma is closed due to COVID.” Good thing I called as who scrolls to the bottom of a web page?

We instead spent the day hiking in Cebolla Wilderness Preserve near Grants City. It was amazing, beautiful and had very few visitors. We hiked on lava beds, which was like walking on broken ceramic, and saw the stunning “La Ventana” arch.

Our trek then led us to Santa Fe – it stormed hard on our drive and was cold (is this May weather?). We had a nice hotel room and wanting a true southwest meal, called a place called “The Shed.” “We are not taking reservations, but have a wait list and may be able to seat you around 8:30 or 9 p.m.” There weren’t many restaurants open on our Monday arrival date, so we left our names, and yup, they sat us at 8:45 next to the most obnoxious drunk, foul-mouthed sorority sisters I had ever encountered. They took turns laughing, cursing and then crying and hugging – seriously.

After 20 minutes of their histrionics, I asked the waiter to quiet them down and was told he couldn’t do anything about it. I then proceeded to ask them to pipe down myself, and the manager came to our table and shared: “If there is a problem, please notify me rather than put yourself in a situation.”

Alrighty then.

Actually though, the food was amazing and it was so good in fact that we ate there a second time. The second night was incredible and it was a relaxed, calm vibe, nothing like the Linda Blair sisters we had previously encountered.

We made it up to Taos with the knowledge the Pueblo was closed (I discovered this two-thirds of the way down their home page). It was again raining and we tried to sneak around the Pueblo’s parameter so I could show my spouse the beautiful adobe homes which Taos is known for.

No such luck. We headed to Taos Plaza and stopped by a diner to get a cup of coffee. While waiting in line to enter, the power went out. “We’re closing the diner in 10 minutes if the power doesn’t come back on by then.” It didn’t.

Are you sensing a pattern? I certainly was at this point.

We found some cool stores on the Plaza made famous in the film “Billy Jack” (I know, I’m dating myself), then headed back to Santa Fe where we visited “Meow Wolf,” an immersive art experience which is kind of like being in a modern art museum, only you are in the art. Really difficult to describe, but once you walk into the refrigerator of one of the set pieces, all will be revealed! Total time warp and amazingly fun.

I had been to Santa Fe about 35 years ago, so I was excited to show my spouse the town, and once the rain dried up, we had one glorious day of true southwest beauty. The Loretto Chapel brought me to tears (as it did in the past) and the Plaza came to life as fellow tourists ditched ponchos and umbrellas for shorts and t-shirts.

For our last dinner, we made reservations at a southwest restaurant which had been featured on one of those “diners and drive in places” on TV. You guessed it, we had to wait 15 minutes before the host even acknowledged us. It appeared there were only two waiters working the dining room, and I realized, some of the places we visited may not be back to the staffing levels they once had. Combine that with reduced capacity seating and you have a recipe for the stews we found ourselves in.

Although our post-COVID trip was “weird” (for lack of a better term), upon our return, it definitely felt like I had been on vacation. I felt much more relaxed, calm and content that I had hopped on that plane.

As I look upon the photos on my phone, I realize that it really was a great vacation – only different.

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

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.”