There was no time to spare. The proof of my second novel “Apache Death Wind” demanded immediate attention. I needed to make the necessary corrections before ordering copies for our Desert Writers Expo (book fair) that was coming up very soon. The pressure was on. The last thing I needed were any more interruptions.
But, of course, that’s exactly what happened when the doorbell rang between a running cavalry fight and escape from the marauding Apaches. Suddenly there were two urchins at the front door. I couldn’t see their mom but I assumed she was lugging her Girl Scout cookies behind them. Strangely, one of them looked like Sweet pea; Charlotte from Saint Paul.
As I approached the front door, the second urchin went kangaroo, jumping up and down and flapping his arms. It WAS Brennan and Charlotte…by themselves with nary an adult in sight. As I opened the front door, my family was suddenly there surrounding me. They had all come to Palm Springs to celebrate my 70th birthday.
Sharon had pulled off three months of meticulous planning that details that had to rival the 6th of June. Her surprise birthday party for me was a complete success. I was floored.
For one long weekend, the expats from Minnesota and Colorado enjoyed their time in the sun. The Hollister gang returned to sprint up and down their asphalt racetrack. Deft fingers were put to the test with rock painting (which adorn my office window now), making a variety of breakfast pancakes, squeezing fresh orange juice every day and performing more aerial aerobics above the pool than a Hummingbird on crack.
The highlight of their visit had to have been the time spent in our pool. We were blessed with warm weather the entire weekend and my overnight lodgers made good use of it. As these pictures can attest gravity was challenged above and below the pool.
And the youngest of the troop, Sweetpea, learned to imitate her brother and cousins with her scoops and kicks.
I was amazed, amused and delighted with the water/aerial gymnastics shown by all my grandchildren. But then my confidence was shaken a bit when Spencer leaned over one day in the pool and whispered in my ear: “Hey, dude, do you think we’re ready to go tubular in some really gnarly surf?”
“Say what?” I answered.
His sister, Samantha, piped up, “Oh, that was so bodacious, Spence. You’re like a radical wave man getting air.” Then she turned to me and added, “Oh Papa, you’re like our big kahuna.”
And I was concerned my grandkids were going to be theater majors. Now I worry they’ll all split for the North Shore one day.
I guess it’s really true. At this stage in one’s existence, you know who the really important people are in your life. Many of them were there surrounding me with love and affection. It was a weekend full of laughs, liquids and plenty of pool time.
There were three lessons I was remind of during their visit.
Lesson # 2
Family and friends are everything. Financial success is meaningless unless it benefits the family structure and togetherness. Grandchildren keep you young, tired, grateful, loved, wanted, needed and ultimately they make reaching the ripe old age of seventy worthwhile. The care and feeding of grandchildren is more than just a happy thought.
Lesson # 1
For some reason, turning sixty way back when wasn’t that big of a deal. In fact, it was hardly noticeable. There were too many distractions on my plate to worry about advancing age. Now suddenly being seventy is noticeable. Not to worry, my son assures me. He says seventy is the new fifty. In that case, I don’t have to worry about my sixties until I reach eighty.
I guess I’ve made it this far by a curious combination of luck, genes, Sharon and my kids, running on a daily basis for the last forty years, hapless planning that somehow went right despite…the inability to grow up entirely and if you are a believer, someone’s preordained plan.
For many people, long range planning is “What’s for dinner.” Other people my age have a five year plan and then a three year plan. I’m focused on my day-to-day because three, four or five years out is just a distraction. It’s a life in pictures that continues to grow.
Lesson # 3
And before they left, my kids even took me to hipster heaven. A Septuagenarian in hipster heaven was like revisiting the Triangle Bar without the Acapulco Gold in one corner, blues sung from a smoke-filled stage in another corner, twenty-five cent schooners of beer and one wannabe hippie talking philosophy and smack at the same time. It was like my lost years with a little more clarity and purpose but not necessarily any more maturity.
For reasons still foreign to me, the coastal tribes of California Hipsters have decided that Palm Springs is the perfect getaway for weekend forays into the desert. And one of their favorite stomping (figurative speaking) grounds is less than a half mile from my humble abode.
Brian, ever anxious to forestall or delay my aging process, decided it was the perfect spot to hang out after the kids were in bed and Nana was standing guard. Besides, Brian assured me, the place had been mentioned three times in the latest issue of G.Q. While it wasn’t the Triangle Bar, it did encapsulate a modern day version of New School Hippies. So Brian and I, along with Melanie and Amy went slumming. I loved it.
Today’s hipster follows a long line of counter-culture movements that have challenged the status quo for decades. Mine was the hippie movement. Before hippies, came the beats and before them, it was the Harlem Renaissance with artists such as Langston Hughes in Harlem and artists in Greenwich Village.
After punk went commercial and hip hop lost its focus, this newest mutation took form. It was a trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior that grabbed the moniker of “Hipster.”
As with every counter-culture movement, there are uniforms and standards of dress or in this case, undress. Most of the men wore skinny black jeans, black T-shirts, vintage flannel, knit skull caps, black boots or flip-flops, fake eyeglasses and a keffiyeh.
The women were much more interesting. There was no filigree or lace there unless it was meant to titillate and entice.
There was this goddess in a tiny bikini (Band-Aids really) which was covered, euphemistically speaking, by a see-through flowing robe and a smartly tailored jacket. Her blond hair was up in a Heidi-bun. Of course, wedge heels were mandatory.
Another woman wore a long silk duster that covered a dress which started far down her chest and ended up around her naval. She wore a floppy sun bonnet and had hoop earrings which just about rested on her shoulders. Black boots completed her ensemble.
Another had a long black sleeveless prom dress with a high neckline. Of course, there were no side panels and spillage was only a simple twist or turn away. Where was Chubby Checker when you needed him?
One Mary Travers look-alike wore jean shorts that were cut high above the pockets. The pockets were left intact and hung like holsters on her thighs. It looked like a narrow jean sash across her bottom.
Almost all of the women had legs that wouldn’t quit. Several of the men did too. And almost all of them smoked cigarettes; foreign and domestic. Parliament was the most popular but the Turkish ones smelt the worse.
When I was growing up, only truck drivers and bad-ass Marines had a lot of tattoos. These Hipsters, both men and women, carried more ink than the New York Times. Colorful montages complimented or con-trasted with bleach-blond hair or coal black coffers. Arms, legs, necks were all adorned with flowers, figures, symbols and other designs of the millennials.
I could just imagine the tattoos I couldn’t see?
At one point, Brian and I were comparing notes and observations, all to the consternation of Melanie who couldn’t contain herself and finally had to exclaim. “Oh, my God, you two are just alike!” Somehow she made that sound like a bad thing?
Our deserts most famous resident used to say: “Thanks for the Memories.” I would gladly concur. It’s been one heck of a ride for seventy years. Being with family on my birthday was the icing on the cake.
There’s even talk of Coachella next year.
But don’t tell Mom.