Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Getting our just deserts

"Yes, but it's a dry heat!" assured Mr. Hall. Mrs. Hall had heard this reply so many times her head was starting to hurt. Having enjoyed the trip down the west coast so far, they slingshotted around San Diego and were now heading back up north and east to the high desert. Somewhere in the not-so-distant future Mr. Hall was thinking about retirement, and it was time to do some scouting for a new locale. Palm Springs and Las Vegas had come up on the short list, so Mr. Hall had filed his flight plan and was making the necessary adjustments.
The Halls had come in late to that desert mecca. A few suggestions from the GPS and some calculated guesswork dropped them in the vicinity of Palm Desert and some delightful restaurants. Closing their eyes and choosing one (always a risky venture while driving...) they pulled into "Shame on the Moon" to sup and reevaluate the situation. There was a 35 minute wait but since the bar was open, they opted to dine there. The bartender appeared out of nowhere and effortlessly brought them some wonderful light fare. Pausing a bit, as she blotted her face with the napkin, Mrs. Hall surveyed the room. "Did you notice something?" she asked Mr. Hall. He was deeply engrossed in the meal and did not reply. "I mean, did you notice that we are by far, wait staff excepted, the youngest patrons of this establishment by at least 25 years?" Mr. Hall looked up, around and nodded an assent. She called over the vapor of a bartender. "Am I mistaken, or is Palm Springs the Elephants' Graveyard? Is everyone here about this age?" He smiled and continued to wipe out glasses. "And can I ask you something else?" she continued. "I'm ashamed to say I don't recognize that bottle. Can you tell me what it is?" He pulled it out. "It's ginger-flavored cognac" he replied and Mrs. Hall pulled a face. A drink like that can pretty much sum up a crowd, she thought. She leaned over and confided to the barkeep, "I keep Hennessey in my hip flask 'cause it's hard to get cognac at the ballpark." He smiled and said, "You're a girl after my own heart."
The next morning they set themselves to their task. Armed with several real estate listings and a neighborhood map, they wound around the parks and side streets, rubbernecking and snooping and generally causing concern in the senior community. A lot of the areas were gated, and while Mrs. Hall's charms were considerable, she was only able to convince about half of the guards to let them roam about unescorted. Frustrated with what was rapidly becoming a futile search, Mr. Hall called off the plan and suggested they just check out what he knew would appeal to Mrs. Hall; the vintage/retro resale shops in the trendy oh-so-midcentury modern part of old Palm Springs.
It turned out to be a enjoyable respite. A quick lunch at the local coffee emporium, lots of envious drooling over Eames era furnishings and Mrs. Hall was remarkably docile. "Well, I may not have found the perfect home for you, but I did find the perfect accessory. Check this out!" There in the window was a huge, whited over, 737 model aircraft, probably rescued from some old travel agency long ago. Mr. Hall inspected it closely for any remaining signs of livery, but all that was left were a few chip marks revealing some cerulean blue and orange. "Probably an old Southwest jet-" he guessed. The owner was willing to haggle and Mrs. Hall equally willing to waver, but it Mr. H. remained steadfast in his belief that the treasure would not fit in the overhead compartment on the ride home and that they would have to pass.
Waving goodbye to the old movie stars homes and the stunning architecture, they continued on up to Barstow. A short detour took them past the former home of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and Mr. Hall stopped shortly to revisit Sunset Chapel in Apple Valley to pay his respects. The Halls would have dearly loved to re-indulge in one of Emma Jean's Hollandburger delights, brimming over with greasy ortega chili laden goodness, but unfortunately, the old Route 66 treasure had already closed for the day. They ended up dining in Barstow instead, at a singularly forgettable restaurant. Mr. Hall paused to attempt digestion and pout, when Mrs. H. reminded him about the train yard. "That's right- I almost forgot!" For about the next hour or so, Mr. Hall stood in the shadow of the old Harvey Hotel over looking twenty or more rail lines; the trains whizzed by, to and fro in the rising moonlight. Mr. Hall was serenely happy, while Mrs. Hall reclined as much as the rental's carseat would allow, trying to survive the effects of their recent repast. The hotel was close at hand, and the next day came mercifully fast. Next episode: High desert, but low temps. Stay tuned!

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