An excerpt from last week follows:
(following a canceled flight, a wasted Sunday, a 4 am cab ride, a 2 hour delay, a 4 hour layover, and missing a quarter of my conference)
It took the last reserve of my "pissed-off" not to smile as I walked out the door of the Palm Springs Airport. The sun shone, the breeze wafted through 85 degree air. Exotic Flowers were in bloom, humming birds flitting here and there - they seem to follow me as I walk. I feel like the main character in a Disney film. The air smells sweet of blossoms and the breeze is awash with grass-clipping scent. The entire city smells like a golf course - which of course makes sense because aside from being completely surrounded by golf courses, everything that is even slightly green in Palm Springs has been irrigated and manicured and preened as if it were a golf course.
I remain convinced , however, that Palm Springs is not a place to live. It carries the air of fantasy, the kind of expectation that is sure to be dashed on rocks of time and reality. Your life cannot be this vacation for the very essence of daily living robs the contrast on which vacation thrives. No, real life should be something you aspire to leave for short bursts of ecstatic variety and return to for the comfort of substance and predictability. Much like a fish may spring from depths to bathe in the glory of flight; he dare not dream of making the sky his home. So too is Palm Springs a fantasy to be lightly indulged and not to be breathed deeply of, for fear of asphyxiation.
But I digress -heavily- I walk the almost-mile to my hotel where I am politely informed that the hotel has been [of course] overbooked and my reservation transfered to another establishment. I briefly contemplate going through the "anyone can take a reservation, but the important part is holding a reservation" bit, but I don't have the energy and haggardly accept. I ask if it is a walkable distance and explain that I had booked this particular hotel because it was in walking distance to my conference. His response is a resolute no and I am given a $20 from the petty cash drawer for taxi fare. He is taken aback to learn that I had walked from the airport, as any typical specimen in Palm Springs, it seems, would have died from such an effort.
I check in to the new hotel and jettison my baggage. I am tired mentally, but will soon be starving if I lay down as my mind would like. So I decide to do the unspeakable, walk to the conference center and snag a meal along the way. Navigating is not difficult; the streets are straight and flat. It is a rest for my weary faculties as well rested legs assume command. I easily pass the midpoint of my round-trip tour and have not seen anything I needed to eat. Stop at a local pizza shop, for fear that I will soon return to my start having forgotten to fuel, and order 4 slices.
I took them on my way to look for a bench, a more difficult task than one may imagine. But I finally did find a stopping place in the winding park near a drying river bed that just longs to be more than a still pond. The breeze caresses past my head and neck; a temperature you couldn't ask more of. A chorus of bullfrogs battles in the stream below; call and response like any good congregation. There's one of the advantages of living in the shadow of a mountain - the sun seems to set but evening drags on for an eternity, dusk can't quite seem to settle on this town. A car drives by and the chorus falls hush. A lone cricket is bold enough to continue. The seconds pass. A thrush launches itself from reeds calling its objection. Slowly the refrain cascades down the bank until full crescendo is again met.
Purple flowers on the hill in front of me begin to lose their color. The first grasp of darkness chokes their brilliance. I begin walking down the river path. Trees are losing their depth, they look like cardboard outlines until I pass and reveal their authenticity. Palm trees across the water blend into a forest of darkness. But the sky is still bright; the mountains a perfect silhouette. I can distinguish individual pines striking out from the treeline's safety. The frogs sound as if they are coming closer.
I reach the road and turn to cross the bridge. Now it sounds as if I'm treading on the night callers themselves. The croaks match my step and I turn to ensure there isn't a sea of mangled amphibians in my wake. I finally spy the bend where my hotel lies. I open the door and throw off my shoes. My socks look as ragged as I feel. I lie on a bed, perhaps the only bed in existence, and try to forget that tomorrow will come. I feel as if I've come to the end of a journey, but unfortunately it has only now begun.