Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Poolside Wisdom

We’ve been coming to Palm Springs on and off for the last twenty years. Over that period of time, I’ve met some pretty interesting folks. A place like Palm Springs seems to attract a wide variety of folks from all over the quirky spectrum. By quirky I mean, interesting, unique and not someone you’d find in most suburban neighborhoods.

One of the first persons we met was a retired medical director of a large hospital system in town. He’d been a Green Beret medic in Vietnam and had read my book ‘Love in the A Shau.’ His questions and comments on the book indicated he had read it thoroughly and approved of my descriptions of life for the average soldier in Vietnam. I couldn’t have asked for higher praise than that.

Then there was St. Joseph of Starbucks. St. Joseph was a semi-retired single guy who haunted Starbucks from roughly 4:00am when they opened until about 7:00am when he went to work. I’ve written about him in a couple of blogs. He seemed to be the local councilor for homeless folks, grand inquisitor for local events, and group coordinator for all the strays that seemed to gravitate to the coffee shop in those early morning hours. He was a colorful character worthy of a novel treatment or stage presence.

There were several folks in the Palm Springs Writers Guild who deserved mention for their excellent self-promotion and marketing skills.

Then there is Ron, the pool man.

I’ve talked before about my ‘coffee and chat’ sessions from last summer in Apple Valley. Sharon liked to whimsically call them my ‘playdates’; a moniker I grabbed with pride. Those were impromptu get-togethers with friends in lieu of larger gatherings or social events. These informal, ad-hoc cerebral salons began casually enough but pretty quickly evolved into meeting these friends at least twice a week in a variety of safe locations.

It was always at a safe distance and covered a wide variety of different meeting spots like a coffee shop outdoor patio, a regional park, my back patio or a nearby lake.

I fully intended to continue this new tradition when I returned to Palm Springs. Unfortunately, the Palm Springs Writers Guild was only hosting ‘zoom’ meetings and because that audience tends to be older, they were reticent to meet in person.

It fell to our pool man for me to rediscover the joy of the salon. In this case, it was an impromptu talk about chemicals one afternoon that led to his conservative leanings. After a couple of these discussions, Ron and I fell into a pattern of noontime discussions around the pool twice a week. I think he timed his visits to coincide with our having lunch outside each day. It became a familiar pattern.

I was happy to find someone to continue my coffee and chat sessions even without the coffee and pastry, mandatory for my regular C & C sessions last summer. What differentiated these Southern California cerebral celebrations was the vast political difference between Ron and me.

Ron listens to conservative talk radio each morning as he peruses the internet for his daily stock purchases or sales. He is a lifelong Republican and thought Rush Limbaugh was a saint. Sufficient it to say, we don’t’ agree on a lot of political topics…..except we’ve found that we both have found room for a lot of middle ground. He calls me a centralist and he means it in the nicest way.

What I’ve discovered here under the palm trees and warm winter sun is the same hunger for an exchange of knowledge, ideas, theories, thoughts and opinions all exchanged in a respectful manner. Despite the deep political divide between us, Ron and I are no different from any of my wonderful C & C friends back in Minnesota.

It’s great to have found someone like Ron to help feed my need for intellectual stimulation and exploring new thoughts and ideas. It’s a wonderful use of my time in an era of political stagnation, lemming attention to social media and distractions all around us. This is one of the simpler things in life. Different surroundings but still a great salon.

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