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Vacation

Well, I said I’d add blog entries during vacation. I overestimated what I wanted to do – I was on vacation! So here’s a run-down of the trip.

See the photo album of the trip.

Mike, Jerry & Their Art

We stayed in Cathedral City (next to Palm Springs) with Josh’s Uncle Mike and Mike’s partner Jerry. They own a beautiful home up in Cathedral Canyon with a back yard that’s like an oasis. On the side of the house is the “Artists’ studio,” including a garage where Mike does much of the work on his stainless steel sculptures. Mike created a sculpture for Cathedral City, which has become the logo for the city.

Next to the garage under a lean-to roof and under tarps (it is the desert) sits Jerry’s glass-blowing equipment: a furnace that holds hundreds of pounds of molten glass; a “glory hole,” where work in progress is placed to heat it back up for more shaping; and the oven where finished products are placed. This oven is programmed to reduce the temperature of completed pieces by about one degree a minute, so that the glass doesn’t shatter due to varying rates of cooling within the piece–normally over night.

As stated in the previous entry, Josh and I watched Jerry create four pieces or so with Mike’s help during our stay. It’s an absolutely fascinating process requiring lots of skill, patience, strength and tolerance of heat! See my Picasa Album that shows the process – fascinating!

See the process Mike uses in his work. Also see his web page.

I had lots of fun visiting with them with Josh. We often sat on the back porch talking or doing the NYT crossword puzzles. We learned a lot from them about the area and the people. Both of them are Midwest boys who are now fully desert, and have no interest in living in cold again. I can understand why after being there during the winter, during which the temperatures ranged from 55° at night to 70 or 75° during the day.

Josh and I stayed in their guest room, which has the single-largest bed I’ve ever slept in (it was a King); Josh and I joked about each having a county to sleep in, and having to call out to find the other during the night. The house has a fascinating lighting system that runs on 12v, with wall plates that have 4 or 6 buttons to press. Until we learned them, it was a little game of “press the button and see what turns on – or off!”

Mike & Jerry have two cats, Doris and Sally. These girls are attached to their daddies, so we didn’t get lots of love from them. We loved ’em anyway.

Transportation

As stated in a previous post, the “compact car” we picked up at Enterprise upon our arrival was a Ford F-150 with a full back seat and four doors! While it was a guilty pleasure to drive, it burned 1 gallon in 9 miles of travel. Not very suitable for our trip to San Diego. We drove it for a couple of days, and traded it in before that trip for a mid-size car.

An Evening of Two of the Deadly Sins

Saturday night Mike got some comps from the Agua Caliente Casino, where he spends some leisure time, for dinners at their buffet. When Mike & Jerry asked what we wanted to do on vacation, my answer was “eat… sleep… eat some more… sleep some more…” So eat we did, and chalk off “gluttony” as being accomplished.

After dinner we wandered around the casino where Mike played some slot machines. Josh and I were impressed that, while there was smoking in the casino, it wasn’t very smokey – they must have a good ventilation system. Mike played for a while on several different machines, and blithely won an amount of money that I would consider “significant.” He seems more invested in having fun than winning, and informed us that over his career at the casino, it’s pretty much break even. It was interesting to watch. I’m not sure if that qualifies as “greed,” although I could definitely see some of that around me while we were there.

A Walk in the Desert

I think it was Monday that Josh and I went out to the Coachella Valley Preserve, which is a series of Oases that run along the San Andreas fault line (not a mere coincidence – that’s where the water comes from). We started at the visitor’s center, which was a little log cabin built by the men who stayed there originally. We then hiked through the desert, which took over an hour. We got more of an appreciation for how alive the desert is, when there doesn’t appear to be much life there. They do a good job of marking plants with their names here and there, and we saw a few lizards and many birds. It was actually pretty warm – it felt about 80° to me.

The Sex Lives of Dates

We went to Shields Date Farm, which produces 95% of the dates grown in the United States (either they do, or in that area…). We first went to their theatre, where we watched THE ROMANCE & SEX LIFE OF THE DATE, which gives the history of date farming in California. The title was quite provocative in its day. They have lots of samples of the many different dates they grow – we bought some to bring home. They also have Date Shakes, made from minced dates in a vanilla shake – we split one, which was plenty. Very tasty!

Church

Before we left, I mentioned to a fellow at church where we were going. Apart from the coincidence that he was also going there at about the same time (as was another friend!), he suggested we visit the Bloom in the Desert UCC church while there. BIDT holds services in a multi-purpose room at the YMCA in Palm Springs. We arrived a bit early, and were very impressed with our greeting: Mike gave us a hug when we came in, and a woman (Diane?) made name tags for us. There were probably 60 or 70 people in attendance. A talented man played an electronic keyboard, and a woman of Asian descent sang some really beautiful music–both are clearly classically trained. The service was familiar enough for us to be comfortable, yet there were some significant differences that we found really refreshing. The pastor, Kevin Johnson, gave a very provocative sermon (what they call “Commentary”) that we really enjoyed. We stayed afterward to visit for a while, then got a recommendation for good Mexican food and were on our way.

More Food

We ate at several wonderful restaurants while there. At church someone suggested we go to El Gallito for lunch. Well, they weren’t open on Sunday, so we ended up going to Sunrise Cafe, which was quite good, and the waitstaff were a lot of fun. Mike and Jerry also took us to La Tablita, which is, by far, the best Mexican food I have had in my life. This is a family-owned restaurant, and the food is thoughtfully and skillfully prepared. I had chicken enchiladas, which weren’t simply enchiladas slapped with sauce and cheese. The flavors were wonderful, and the “fresh cheese” placed on the dish was delicious!

We also ate at a Middle-Eastern restaurant, the name for which I can’t remember, on Hwy 111 that was really good. The owner (I think) gave us the recipe for the Labne (a yogurt-based dish) that was great.

Trip to San Diego

Josh and I said goodbye to the F-150 and got a mid-sized car that had an 1/8th-inch jack so that we could plug in our mp3 players. (I won’t mention where we purchased the male-to-male 1/8th inch cord for this – we’re too ashamed.)

Josh drove most of the way down. It was very windy in the canyon as we left Palm Springs – the car was being buffeted about. We drove past the thousands of windmills that take advantage of this wind.

We stopped at an “am/pm” gas station to get gas and go to the bathroom. After our next experience with an am/pm, we decided to not use them again: they charge $.45 to use a debit card, and the bathrooms are disgusting (to put it mildly). Let me simply say that whoever used the bathroom before me should probably get some sort of medical attention…

When we got into SD we went directly to Balboa Park, which contains several different kinds of museums and other interesting things to visit. We went to the Timkin and San Diego Museum of Art, both of which were fantastic. We took a couple pictures where allowed in the latter, including the picture I call “the Partying Mary.” Josh’s threshold for museums is MUCH higher than mine–luckily we were done about the same time.

We also visited the Botanical Building, which is a stunning fairly-open structure containing lots of tropical plants. Also the Japanese Friendship Garden, which was very beautiful and serene – amazing inside the park.

We met Josh’s friend Neil after he got home from work, as well as their little dogs Shorty and Tabo (tahbo). Neil gave us a brief walking tour while walking the dogs. His house is a beautiful arts and crafts home near the park. Later we picked up his partner David and the four of us went to Moe’s for dinner, where we started with Kettle Chips with minced and caramelized garlic (Yum!) then moved on to stuffed burgers and such. We had a very interesting discussion on politics, and the two of them described the mindset of Californians, some of which I wouldn’t enjoy very much. More on this below.

They put us up in the guest room, including the bed with the tempurpedic topper – I felt as comfortable as home. More visiting the next morning, and we took off around 8:30 or so.

Hotel Del Coronado

Mike & Jerry suggested we go down to Coronado during this sub-trip to visit the Hotel Del Coronado, which is historic, beautiful and very expensive. We walked along the beach, then toured inside the hotel. After more walking around the area, we came back for lunch. Instead of the buffet (we didn’t feel like spending $21 each on it), we grabbed a sandwich and salad and sat on the veranda overlooking the ocean. The sun was warm, and we had a wonderful time talking. It was entertaining to watch all the “money” walk by. Clear purses seem to be all the rage right now.

We then hopped in the car and drove down the coast, past the large naval installation and a big ‘antenna’ comprised of a building with a series of high poles around it connected by wire, etc. We walked out on a huge pier about as far south as we could go, then decided it was time to go “home.” Since we got there by verbal direction, we didn’t necessarily know the best way to get back. Josh suggested we take 4th Street; I didn’t take his suggestion. Had I done so, I wouldn’t have wasted a few minutes discovering he was right. More on this below, too.

Thoughts and Conclusions

This vacation was absolutely necessary for me. Life has been so incredibly hectic, which is such a surprise for February! It was nice to sleep a lot (we napped often) and just spend time together.

Work Ethic
Based on what we learned about Southern California, I doubt I’d want to live there. Neil, David, Mike and Jerry all gave us information about folks who live there: after telling them about roofing my house and gutting Josh’s bathroom Memorial Day Weekend, Neil said that one could invite friends over for such a thing two months in advance and get yeses all the way, yet when the day arrived no one else would. He once asked a coworker to come help him move some rocks at his house, and got as a response, “how much are you going to pay me?” There is an apparent huge lack of integrity when comparing what people say they will do and what they actually do–after my work for 15 years in Taking It Lightly, I’m sure this would drive me nuts. My personal theory about this is: why should anyone feel they have to do hard work when they can hire someone (namely Mexican immigrants) to do it?

It’s Not Sustainable!
Throughout the trip, the title was Josh’s hue and cry, not that I disagreed with him. There are so many Midwesterners who have come here to live that they are changing the climate by growing grass and plants that don’t belong in the desert. Josh and I are both attracted more to lusher, more humid climates than the desert–I found it interesting that I was drier there (nose, etc.) than I am in Wisconsin during the winter!

Us
The trip was completely effortless in terms of Josh’s and my being together for seven days. I figured as much, and this was the most extended time we’ve been together. We are both in a wonderful place where things that used to matter (to me, anyway) years ago no longer do. For instance, I described above not taking Josh’s suggestion about getting back from Coronado, only to find his suggestion was right on. Josh knew he was right at the time, and let me discover it for myself. When I finally did, he didn’t say anything; instead, I said, “you were RIGHT, oh so RIGHT, everything about you was RIGHT,” etc. We both were laughing. He joked, “You need to say one more thing.” ?? oh: “I was WRONG WRONG WRONG, you were RIGHT.” He then stated I only needed to say it once. We both cackled with laughter. The joke is so not who we are, and it’s fun to play with. We don’t get stressed out about missed turns (which I did several times, including one that caused us to walk much longer one night than we wanted) or other mistakes. I joked before the trip that we would have enough time to get sick of each other, and only the opposite was true. We love to play and make bad jokes together (he excels at this), and are about as perfectly suited as I can tell in terms of food, values, interests, etc.

I’m a pretty lucky guy, and heck, he is too.

See the photo album of the trip.