Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Shedding Skin

Things change. People change. And life goes on. Sometimes change is subtle, unnoticed and unexpected. Other times it’s a conscious move to improve or alter reality. Our reality called Palm Springs wasn’t bad at all. It just didn’t fit us any longer. I first noticed the change while on my knees going through piles of collected treasures that had lost their luster. Once I took that first step, other changes quickly began to tumble down like a row of dominos.

The first casualty of change was a boatload of Palm Springs Life magazines that went as far back as the 80s and 90s. They were a veritable treasure trove of the myth, folklore, fame and fabled history of this storied community. The magazines were collected when I was a much younger and more impressionable man. But I’ve grown fingertip calluses and traveled many more miles since that ancient family history. After years of collecting memorabilia from this fantasy place, it’s finally come time to begin purging those treasures in lieu of much needed art space and a different perspective for both Sharon and myself.

I’ve written before about the two Palm Springs that exist side by side. The first one is a familiar vacation spot that tourists and first time visitors alike have come to expect with its clear blue skies, warm winter temperatures and marvelous surrounding attractions. It’s a hip millennial gathering spot at night, has a welcoming attitude toward diverse audiences and is surrounded by marvelous mountains that reach up and kiss the clear blue skies. The old movie stars have long since passed but their cache still remains to this day.

Several years ago, Sharon and I began our transition from ‘that Palm Springs’ to one of our own making. Everything new had become old and routine had become comfortable. Then gradually comfortable became staid and that, in turn, demanded more exploring and self-examination. Change became a by-product of constant seeking and searching. I’m not sure if Palm Springs changed its fa├žade as much as we just peeked behind its mask and found ourselves a new identity.

Our new Palm Springs provides us a much different outlook and attitude. We have new goals and objectives. It’s almost as if familiar and comfortable have become bad words in our new lexicon.

All the things about Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley that impresses first time visitors are now old hat to us. I don’t read the MLS listings the way I used to. I don’t follow current real estate trends and pricing. I care about my neighbors and our neighborhood but not the current state of city politics. I have a highly tuned-in BS detector. I’m not impressed with Bentleys or billionaires, celebrities or L.A. wannabes anymore. The cars driven and homes occupied matter less than the substance of the conversations offered and insights shared. The bloom is off the rose and although I love this place it’s sometimes hip trendy attire doesn’t do it for me anymore. I’d like to believe I can see so much clearer now.

It was this new Palm Springs that gave birth to ‘Love in the A Shau,’  ‘Debris; the trilogy’ and a plethora of new plays. It has meant more involvement in local arts as well as new mountain trails to explore. There are new venues for writing gigs and fellow writers to share the wordsmith’s journey.

Sharon has found a new spot to share her paintings with fellow artists. She has also taken over our kitchen nook and half the garage as her studio space.  Together she and I are on a pilgrimage to discover artist’s haunts throughout the Valley.

Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley is a wonderful environment for creativity and the arts. All manners of creative expression find their identity here. Both Sharon and I are fortunate to have found such a welcoming environment for our respective work. The Palm Springs Writers Guild continues to be a safe haven as does exploring the Valley and High Desert for theatrical venues for my plays.

Mountain trails beckon and bike trips abound to explore backcountry haunts all winter long. My office is occupied six days a week. Sharon’s studio is more like seven days a week. We’re shedding our skin of past identities and growing new experiences day by day.

Two communities, two life styles, one shared vision quests in the arts. We are two very lucky people.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Invitation to Respond

It’s always been a challenging question even for someone like me not adept in the game of communication. Do people have a responsibility to respond when you send them a greeting, comment, update or any other form of communication? Some of my friends argue that one comment doesn’t necessarily deserve or require a response. Other friends argue just as emphatically that any communication requires at least some kind of cursory response. They argue that the initial communique is usually meant to be ‘an invitation to respond.’

I’m one of those guys who likes to hear back from anyone I’ve sent a message to unless it’s a simple comment that obviously doesn’t require a response. Every once in a while I’ll send a message to a friend and never get a response. That’s always disappointing for someone who spends an inordinate amount of time on the computer. My e-mail is only one pinke tap away and unfortunately it has become an all too familiar finger twitch at least a half dozen times an hour.

Yet I’m reminded by my smarter, better half that life doesn’t always go smoothly in that arena. There is the all too familiar circle-of-life phenomena in which friends, associates, compadres, girlfriends, classmates, roommates, pals and partners float, land, slide or otherwise come into our lives and just as quickly leave it again. It’s happened to me dozens of times in school, the service, work, voluntary organizations, trips and events. Rock solid relationships held tight by happenstance and circumstance that eventually break apart and slide away like sand on the beach.

As perplexing as people are who don’t respond so too are those who don’t follow through with initial connections. An old friend, fifty years past, wrote me out of the blue one day. Her e-mail cut straight to the point.  “You did become a writer” it said…and that was it. After fifty years it was one line and then she signed her name and suggested we become ‘friends’ on Facebook. Rather curious, I thought. My interest was piqued. After that initial contact there was some lite correspondence over time but nothing that formed a solid bond of communication. It never turned out the way I thought it might. To this day I still don’t know why.

I’m also fascinated by some people’s inability or unwillingness to keep their word or simply follow-through on promises made. We sometimes see false bravado in young men or small children. It’s part of their growing into adulthood. How is it that some adults haven’t been able to shake off that habit of somehow believing what they say to be true when we (and I suspect they) know it isn’t so? It turns out that speaking one’s mind and meaning it are not always intrinsically linked together.

I knew a skipper who had the habit of recruiting crew members for his sailboat on Lake Superior. When we first met he asked if I would be interested in ‘crewing.’ I was thrilled at the thought of sailing on Gitche Gume. He promised to call but he never did. When I bumped into him at another party he asked me the same question.  It was only after I commented to a mutual friend that I was told that ‘the skipper’ had a habit of ‘recruiting’ anytime he met someone new. He had never once followed through with his promise of taking new recruits on the high seas. It was just a social crutch he used to spice up his conversation instead of contributing something of sub-stance.

Another case in point was an occasional visitor to Palm Springs. He loved the area and was always talking about purchasing a condo there. We would often check out ‘open houses’ when he was in town. He talked and talked but never once seriously made an offer to buy. I came to realize it was just part of his routine dialogue and he never meant a word of it.

It’s exciting when past acquaintances are rekindled and friendships renewed. Then disappointing when some of those connections dissipate once again with the coming of nightfall. What’s even more disappointing is the realization that it’s the other party who doesn’t want the connection to continue. That’s happened to me on Facebook several times when old acquaintances contacted me then for some inexplicable reason never respond back again.

My interpersonal radar has gotten much better over time. I’m more adept at detecting false bravado and bull…oney from my fellow man. The other sex is something entirely different. I guess I’ll just continue to plod along making friends where I can and hope that what they tell me in the course of normal conversation has some basis in truth. I’d like to think of it as being open and honest…or at least my version of that reality.

There ought to be a course one could take in relationships, love, communication and other interpersonal social skills. Oh, I guess there already is. It’s called life.  I’ve been a student in that class for a very long time now. No graduation yet in sight.

But if any of my old friends or acquaintances gets this message, please stay in touch.

I’d love to hear from you.