These Fires Run Deep: April 2022

I saw a bumper sticker a few days ago that read: “Remember your grandparents were at Woodstock” and it got me thinking.

It may be difficult to conjure images of today’s gray-hairs adorned in tie-dyed rags, torn jeans and stringy long hair, smoking pot and getting jiggy with it while rolling around in muddy fields, but I’m convinced it happened.

And those from the Woodstock generation can back me up.

Now, they’re older and retired, after spending a life of doing who knows what; those youths of promise and vitality long passed.

Palm Springs may be awash in a sea of gray, but one thing I’ve learned from these desert dwellers is to never underestimate the power of that gray.

These fires run deep.

Dylan Thomas once wrote: “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

I never understood what that concept meant until recently.

I was hiking up the Frank Bogert Trail and came across an elderly couple making their way down. It was a bit of a steep hill, so I was surprised to see them coming down – and at quite a rapid pace I might add!

This caused me to question my assumptions of aging – they appeared to be in their seventies, yet they were bounding down that hill with more vitality than any 20-year-old. I wondered how they made this mountain trek seem like wading through so much tissue paper.

I was also reminded that I hike, practice yoga, frequent the gym, and take long and splendiferous walks. All these activities make the getting gray part more agreeable. My friends ask, “Why the intent? You certainly don’t look like Superman.”

The only response I can provide comes from deep within – this is me raging against that good night.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d say I’m closer to the early side of a sunset; still have a ways to get to that good night and close of day.

But, I know it’s in my future – and I’m gonna put up one heck of a good fight before the knock out.

I have two friends who are 70, which to some may seem ancient, but when you meet them you would swear they are both in their early sixties. Both are vital, current and can be seen at Bruno Mars and J-Lo concerts.

I uphold them as archetypes of where I want to be in 10 years, you know the hipster g-parent role model. They are a far cry from my own grandmothers at that age: all roll-up knee high stockings, comfortable smocks and house slippers.

Times certainly have changed – and for the better too I might add.

I don’t think folks feel as compelled to “act their age” any more. I mean, who created these definitions anyway?

I see what a vibrant community Palm Springs is. How those in their sixties bloody each other at pickle ball and can be seen cruising down Palm Canyon Drive on street bikes. They are out enjoying long evenings over the warm summer nights and strolling arm in arm at VillageFest.

This is how life should be regardless of age, but with them it takes on added weight.

I’m sure in the back of their minds they may be hearing, “Old age should burn and rave at close of day!”

The fact of the matter is they’re living their lives with as much vitality as they have. They are determined to make the bestest, mostest, happiest, whateverest remains of what is left.

I have come to admire that, and as I age, I am indeed aware of how deep these fires run – and how they will not be extinguished without a good fight.

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

Just Say “Hi”: March 2022

Disneyland may be the happiest place on earth, but I’d venture to say, Palm Springs is one of the most friendly places on the planet.

And, as we traverse these “times that try men’s souls” to quote Thomas Paine, there ain’t nuthin’ wrong with that.

Yes, I can already hear the “How can you make such assumptions? Have you seen some of the local posts on social media?”

Yes, setting those aside, I venture to say the majority of people who live out here do enjoy their lives and are a nice, good stock. My personal experience is that there is a certain friendliness to folks out here.

Coming from nasty, old L.A. where I was born and had lived my entire life, I was not accustomed to people saying “hello” to any passerby, nor to them gesturing “please go ahead” while in line at the supermarket.

When I first made Palm Springs permanent three years ago, as I walked my dog in the mornings, people would smile, wave and say “good morning” or “hello.”

At first it creeped me out.

I’ve seen “The Stepford Wives” and I was wondering how long it would take before they tried to recruit me into their group of zombie robots.

I would embarrassedly feign a “Uh, hi.”

After a while it began to soak in and it didn’t feel like such an effort to shoot back a “Well, hello there!”

I’ve learned, people like to say “hello” as it is an acknowledgement of another human being in their space. Their friendly smiles reflect that as well.

It’s not just people walking that proffer these kind gestures. Gardeners say “morning” as they go about their mowing, the post person gives a wave from his/her little van, and the UPS and FedEx delivery people give nods of their baseball caps.

It is like these people like life in the desert enough to want to share their appreciation and it reflects in their interactions with strangers.

Like them, I quickly came to embrace this feeling. Now, it no longer feels forced or untoward. It feels natural and it is the way I want to live – perhaps a bit friendlier than I had been during my working life.

While walking, I can always tell the visitors. They are usually hidden behind oversized sunglasses, wear bawdy straw hats like you might see at a beach resort and are always whispering with intensity on their cell phones. They may as well have been walking past a ghost for all you’d know.

When I say “hello,” at times I receive these vacant stares, akin to “You talkin’ to me?” Why yes, you’re the only person on this street.

It is these “I am so busy I don’t have time to acknowledge you” people that I have made my personal mission to convert (I know, kinda passive, right?). When I see one of these types getting ready to bowl me over in their path, I crack a wide smile and say “good morning.”

It totally throws them and forces them to look up from their phones – to see the beautiful desert mountains, our rich blue skies and fun and quirky inhabitants. I mean, isn’t that why you’re visiting?

I like to think of it as my small way of improving humanity.

I feel better after I say hello to people and it is definitely a good way to start your day. I think if more of us sought out that interaction, we all might be in a better space.

So, the next time you see another human being while on the street or in a supermarket or pumping gas, try a “Hello” or “Good day.”

Take a Hike: February 2022

I have never considered myself to be “outdoorsy.” I mean, sure I liked to camp every now and then, and I appreciated the wide open spaces, but I am not one of those REI-inspired, granola-eating, wool sock-wearing kinda people.

Then, I moved to Palm Springs.

Throughout my life I had been drawn to the magnificent San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountain ranges. Their beauty has always calmed and centered me, and they provide a stunning cloak of refuge for the Coachella Valley.

When I moved here, I quickly learned that a lot of other folks appreciate their beauty as well. So much so in fact, that this time of year, you see little dots of people climbing along their expanses. At night this can be quite dramatic as you see pinpoints of light traversing the hills of Tahquitz Canyon as night-hikers make their way home.

During my first full-time year out here, I had settled into a nice gym routine. Lift weights, pound the elliptical machine, rinse and repeat. I like to sweat, so that did the trick.

Then, COVID struck.

No more gym, no more exercise machines. As I am taco-obsessed, I wondered, “How am I to work off my addiction?”

“Look to the hills!” A voice called in my head. “Take a hike!”

It was March, so it wasn’t too hot. I took my first big trek – South Lykken Trail. It is a “moderate” hike and my pulse did get up to 120 bpm a few times, so it was a sufficient work out. I liked commandeering the rocks and monitoring my progress going up the hill.

What I did not anticipate, however, was the beauty at the top.

Suddenly, I was overlooking all of Palm Springs and I felt such a sense of awe – I mean how could a place be as beautiful as this?

I hiked further and came across a herd of big horn sheep.

Talk about a jaw dropper.

I wasn’t sure how to respond to their presence. I didn’t know if they would try to butt me or bite me or kick me down the side of their mountain.

So, I stood there in awe and quiet. Suddenly this feeling of gratitude and beauty overwhelmed me. How does something so incredibly striking as a bighorn grace this crazy planet?

And yet, there they stood, eyeballing me, as I looked at them with tears in my eyes.

I slowly walked away, understanding that I had been in the presence of greatness, at least for a few minutes.

I walked back down the hill, thankful that I had been granted this gift.

From that point on, during the cooler months I have made it a point to take a hike at least once a week. I have expanded my treks – Araby, Museum, Indian Canyon, North Lykken, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, you get the picture.

Looking back two years, it was weird the first year of the pandemic. We were all still under heavy mask-mandates, not knowing exactly how COVID was spread. While hiking, the majority of people I encountered were always fully masked and respectful. We gave each other wide berths as we traversed the trails.

While I was huffing and puffing under the thickness of masks, I would say to myself: “Imagine how easy this will be when masks go away?”

Ha!

Well, it’s been a few years and I find around October that I once again get that itch to hit the trails. Each time, I find new paths and new adventures.

I like to play games with myself while on these treks.

My favorite hiking playlist is John Williams, who just so happened to have penned the themes for “The Poseidon Adventure,” “Earthquake” and “The Towering Inferno.”

I am a BIG fan of seventies disaster flicks, so I often fantasize that I am the last living person on the planet, searching for signs of life amidst the rubble while being lullabied by these overwrought scores.

It’s a lot of fun.

I find that hiking is an incredible way to practice mindfulness. When you are confronted by uneven paths, prickly bushes and side-slanted rocks, there is absolutely no way you can do anything else but to be in the moment. To be present.

I find that the hour or two I am on a trail is like taking a mini-vacation from myself. While on the hill, all I can think about is the path ahead of me and what it will take to get up the next part without breaking my leg. Then, before I know it, I’ve made it to the top and back, a bit tired perhaps but strangely at peace.

Nothing can beat that feeling.

So, if you find yourself in search of something new, I only have one thing to say… “Take a hike!’

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

Good Deed Doing: January 2022

A little good can go a long way.

I discovered this over recent months as frustration with issues like homelessness, COVID and the divisiveness in this country began to weigh on my shoulders like a 10 pound sack of russets.

I wondered, “What could I, one small speck of a human being, do to improve things?”

The answer, I find, is easier than it appears.

I typically give to Coachella Valley nonprofits – FIND Food Bank, The Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, etc. My donations have increased since the pandemic as nothing pries my tight wallet open like the sight of vehicles lined along Avenida Caballeros with those seeking food to keep their families fed.

Before Thanksgiving, I was at Smoketree Plaza when I saw a “Fill This Bus” event going on. Without a thought, I walked into Ralphs and filled a bag with the groceries I would want to see on my Thanksgiving table. Into the bus they went!

It felt great to do that spur of the moment “good-deed-doing” and it gave me a spiritual boost for a few days.

Turns out, one shot wasn’t enough and I soon needed another fix. I began looking for more good-deed-doing opportunities. Remember that movie, “Pay it Forward”? Over the years I kept the concept in my head, although I didn’t act on it often enough.

Finally, one day a few weeks ago I was in line at the 99 Cents Store (the best place to get those pumice stone toilet cleaners). A lady stood before me and seeing I only had a few items, asked, “Would you like to go ahead of me?”

Since I retired a few years ago, I have forced myself to take things more slowly and she appeared a bit rushed, so I said, “Thanks. I’m good.”

As we waited, we chatted about our mutual distaste of broken tortilla chips as she toyed with a bag she had in her hands. Her clothes were stained and she thumbed through her purse with that “I hope I have enough to pay for this” look.

The clerk began ringing up her items.

Suddenly, it went off like a lightbulb in my dim brain. “Pay it forward!”

When the clerk finished ringing up her items, I blurted out: “Would it be okay for me to get these for you? I need to do a good deed today.”

She looked at me in disbelief, while perhaps wondering “Is he some sort of trafficker who’s gonna shove me into a van outside?”

She responded. “Really? Are you serious?”

“Yeah, if that’s okay with you.”

She smiled as wide as could be and said, “That would be really kind. Are you sure?”

I had never been so sure.

After she left, the clerk said, “Hey man, that was good of you. The world needs more of that!”

I thought, yes we do as I walked out into the parking lot. The woman ran up to me, stuffed a business card in my hand and said if I ever needed help to call her.

Elvira was a housecleaner.

I got in my car and suddenly started weeping. I cannot describe the feeling of gratitude I had as I recalled times in my life when I was struggling and never thought I’d get ahead. Now, I was in the position to share my blessings and it made me feel good to do so.

A few weeks later, I was in a particularly foul mood and decided to visit Taco Bell (don’t judge) as I had a Dorito taco craving (I said don’t judge). I was looking at the menu, barely aware of the woman who was mumbling to my left. She said, “Go right ahead, I can’t make up my mind” followed by all this other gibberish. I looked over and saw she was likely a homeless person who was deep in a conversation with herself.

I ordered my food and she continued talking and trying to make sense out of the menu. I smiled at her and without blinking, told the clerk, “I’m gonna pay for her order.”

I turned to the woman and said, “What should we get you to eat? My treat.”

She said tacos and “French fries, I want French fries.” The clerk smiled, “We don’t have fries.”

I was thinking, “She might be a regular here.”

We went back to selecting her food. It was difficult as she changed her choices constantly and asked for fries a second time. At that point, I said, “How about we get you a burrito box?” or whatever the current special was.

She said thank you and a whole bunch of other things I couldn’t understand. I paid for her meal and handed her the receipt.

“You sure you don’t need it?” she asked gingerly.

“No, you keep it.”

I sat down to eat my lunch and soon she got hers.

While dining, I looked over at her as she ate. It was as though all these flies were above her head talking to her at the same time as she was trying to eat. She would chew, talk and whisk them away, chew, talk and whisk.

As I looked more closely, I noticed she looked about as well kept as a homeless person could be. I thought, “She might have been somebody’s wife, somebody’s mother, somebody’s….”

And, amidst all these voices in her head, she was able to express thanks over the kindness of a stranger. I felt humility rise in my throat as I once again felt gratitude.

My mood suddenly lifted like clouds breaking in the sky, and the Dorito taco had never tasted so good.

I noticed that this time I didn’t even hesitate to step in and help. It felt natural and I knew it was the right thing to do.

I mentioned my newfound hobby to a friend and he said, “Don’t you think you’re being presumptuous? Assuming people need your help?”

It didn’t matter, I explained. They hadn’t asked me for anything. I volunteered freely and the benefit I received far outweighed any of my good-deed-doing.

I have decided to add good-deed-doing to my arsenal of self-maintenance tools. I mean if we care for our physical and mental health, why not do the same for our spiritual well-being? Plus, if each of us made an effort to do one kind thing for a stranger every now and then, imagine how the world could change!

This I have learned because a little good-deed-doing goes a long way.

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

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.