Thursday, March 15, 2012

LENT IN PALM SPRINGS


Palm Springs, where I've been holed up since late February, is one of THE strangest places ever. Old rich people, gay people, crazy people, Jewish people, all in a 50's time warp, and about 130 degrees from May-September...It’s a resort, basically, with meth-lab fringes (toward which I, for one, tend)... There are restaurants here, Billy Reed’s for one, that look like Perry Como could be sitting in the adjacent red pleather banquette. Chicken pot pie, stuffed avocado, Cobb salad. "Cocktails." People have no sense of time, schedule, or urgency, which is very unsettling, though in a somewhat (though only somewhat) good way after L.A.. Today, tomorrow; 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, whatever. Old guys cruising down Palm Canyon in vintage T-Birds—turquoise blue, banana yellow—with their 85-year-old boyfriends…

I had big plans for plunging headlong into the writing of my next book but what I’ve been doing out here instead is I have wound a whole ton of skeins of yarn into balls. My friend Christine, whose house I'm watching, left me an entire bag of expensive yarn, including 27 skeins of fine string-like yarn in lush colors of acid green, mauve, robin’s egg blue, and I am just not going to be able to rest, apparently, until I have rolled every last one of these pesky varmints into balls (otherwise the stuff gets hopelessly tangled when you try to knit). 


Though a single ball can take half an hour (and that’s if I don’t screw up, the odds of which are about 70/30), I can’t describe how satisfying I find this. You position the skein around the outside of your knees, and start spinning away like the spider in Charlotte's Web, and if you let the strands get at all slack you’re in major trouble. Yarn has a will, a brain, and if not a malevolent, at the very least a mischievous, streak. My whole life I’ve been looking to feel better, to regulate my mood, to be anesthesized, and I could just sit there indefinitely, winding, winding, especially when combined with watching, say, a Sam Fuller film. Last night I watched The Naked Kiss—that is one weird film--and Underworld U.S.A. is on tap.

I did also knit an entire…well, actually, I seem to have devised a new article of clothing. A kind of combo scarf/cape with huge flared ends, in this case of hot pink mohair with black kitten-hair fringe, that as the thing got longer and weirder, started to scare even me. Which it turns out I can however drape around my neck, back, shoulder, or just hang down in front thereby giving an insane, Whatever-Happened-to-Baby-Jane effect! 


this should come in handy during a typical 85-degree-in-the-shade afternoon...
I'm actually quite proud of myself, my garment contains only 8 or 10 scattered mysterious holes, and while knitting, I discovered Hammer Film Productions (Gothic British black and white horror flicks from the 60's). The double feature I watched consisted of Never Take Candy from a Stranger (elderly pervert/pedophile from the town's richest family  molests two young girls. It was great!) and These Are the Damned"a socially conscious sci-fi chiller about young victims of radiation exposure" in which "a couple stumbles upon a quarantined group of mysterious children." In an undersea cave. I well remember this look (extreme closeups that make even normal people look bathed in greasy sweat and psychotic) and tone (creeping evil) from TV days in my Iron Curtain-era youth. I mean who could resist?  


Part of me felt very guilty. Winding yarn, watching neo-noir movies (only at night, but still), seemed especially lax during Lent, when I always feel I should be walking on broken glass and subsisting on Ry-Krisp and tap water, but I actually sensed that those hours when my brain was lying more or less fallow was a good thing. And I’m not even kidding, I am having a true spiritual awakening.

Like I have got to join up in a whole new way, or maybe I should say all over again (this happens periodically), which is difficult and humbling. Winding that yarn, I thought about how beneath so much sad stuff in my life has been the paralyzing fear that THERE WOULD NOT BE ENOUGH…And like all fears, that’s a fear that has in some—not all, but some—ways become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve done a lot of work in this area and yet I also still have many “old ideas,” as we say in my circle, that do nothing but separate me from the herd from which, under the best of circumstances, I already feel separated enough.  I will not go into a long self-absorbed rant but suffice it to say my way is clear for the immediate future. I have all kinds of actions I can take, but gently, patiently, slowly, and already I have taken a lot of them out here.

One of them is I’ve decided to attend that humongous Religious Ed. Congress in Anaheim next week and mingle with the folks! Hell, yeah! Publishers, acquisitions editors, friends, fans…if you’re gonna be there, too, let’s hook up...

PALM SPRINGS TWILIGHT

12 comments:

  1. Palm Springs Twilight picture looks like two whole notes on a music staff.

    "Tonight ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Name That Tune!" Tonight's mystery tune is from Palm Springs (at) Twilight. Our contestants are ready".

    Contestant 1: Serious look at photo.
    "I can name that Tune in 5 notes."

    Contestant 2: (surprised) (thinking)
    "Oh yeah? I can Name That Tune in 4 notes!

    Contestant 1: (looks at photo again; ponders)
    "Well....I think I can Name That Tune in 3 notes."

    Contestant 2: (in disbelief, and has to go pee)
    "I can Name That Tune in 2 notes!"

    Contestant 1: (reviewing picture; watching contestant 2 squirm to go pee, but misinterpreting the move as ---this guy knows the tune, and is anxious to score on me, dammit)

    "Okay! You win. NAME THAT TUNE!"

    Contestant 2: waiting a moment as the piano plays precisely TWO notes, then shouting:
    "BORN FREE"

    Announcer:
    "Unbelievable! You named That Tune in 2 notes.
    This is a record night. What do you have to say?"

    Contestant 2: "I have to go pee"

    Memorable picture.
    Can I copy it for personal use?
    Hurry, I have to go pee.

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  2. Be my guest! I kind of thought they were discussing where to go for Happy Hour...

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  3. Watched a wee bit of the trailer for Never Take Candy. The tone of "An Important Message from the Management" reminded me of the late-'60s version of Dragnet: "The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent." I remember one episode of Dragnet circa '67 (which, of course, I saw in late-night Nickelodeon reruns) where Jack Webb as Sgt Friday debates an advocate for the use of LSD. The only line I remember is Webb/Friday cracking a tight smile and saying, "I've read Huxley."

    And yes, won't that scarf come in handy in Southern California in the summer! But knitting is an art, and Wilde reminds us that all art is perfectly useless. Transcending mere utilitarian concerns! So Oscar Wilde approves of your scarf, and so do I!

    Lastly, you mention the great Pierino Roland Como. I rather liked him! His Christmas specials aired on PBS until the late '90s or so -- in one of them, he performed with an Irish singer (female) who bore the improbable stage-name of Twink. I remember thinking that Perry did rather well crooning Schubert's "Ave Maria."

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  4. Perry Como was one of the voices of my childhood. I loved your description of Billy Reed's. And of the yarn organizing. A simple repetitive task can be so satisfying, especially as it lets your mind roam free. And I love the expressive scarf.
    All sorts of little things combine to make a life full of joy.

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  5. "I've read Huxley"--go, Jack! Perry rocked (anyone with a co-singer, male or female, named Twink is okay in my book). And Altoon, I should have known you'd appreciate the yarn winding! It is incredibly soothing and I love the challenge of untangling an especially recalcitrant knot.

    I forgot to say--I've said it elsewhere and will no doubt say it again--Palm Springs is beautiful. That first shot if of the very end of Los Caballeros, on the north end of town near where I'm staying. I like to head that way toward dusk...

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  6. I like to think that perhaps one of the important disciplines of Lent is to, once again, try to see and accept that "myself+nothing" is what Jesus most longs for concerning me. How eagerly and without understanding I live as if "myself+SOMEthing" is required. I love to think of you sitting and winding yarn, working out knots, watching stirring old movies, and becoming more and more un-self-conscious in those moments; and this becomes a beautiful act of grace for yourself. I'm appreciating your inspiration. Now off to do the same. (Maybe, AFTER I get some work done...) (You see I still have a long way to go...)

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  7. At the beginning of Lent I was wondering what I should deprive my tongue of this year, so I decided God would definitely like me to drop some of my tendencies towards "harmless" (by my standards) gossip; my inability, at times, to hold back the odd salty response to a passing joke and the habit of matching snaps with snippy salespersons. At times my tongue feels as tied or knotted as your yarn, Heather. For the most part I'm doing well -- but my waist? not so much.

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  8. I used to wear a kid size version of what we used to call my Perry Como shirt as it was a one piece fake two piece of a collared shirt and Cardigan. It was ridiculous and I loved it, ok them, I had two.

    Speaking of wool, Mom - we are visiting my Mom - is knitting me a shawl for the winter months. Yes, I will have to wait a while now. She made one for Mary Beth and I whined a lot so I am getting my way.

    I actually wrote a new piece for the blog and have been thinking once again about what on earth am I doing online.

    I've also been wondering why God has given me the opportunity of a job just as I was getting some speaking bookings. Anyway, I'm grateful and will take the job. Soonish I'll write about what's going on in my head and heart to thrill my seven readers.

    Speaking of reading, I read a lot this week. Finished three books, Annie Dillard's *Holy the Firm* which I've wanted to read for years and which did not disappoint and first time author Paul Harding's stunning *Tinkers* which earned him a Pulitzer and a most intriguing novel about *The Chapel at the Edge of the World** by Kirsten McKenzie that has a powerful tie-in phrase in its Epilogue. I got all of them on the cheap at a liquidation book store.

    Today, on this final sunny day of our March Break I am reading a novel on my Kobo, Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen, a Catholic. By turns it humorous, touching and even disturbing. A good read. Sadly I will not complete it before the next Mission begins this Sunday.

    Thanks for being there doing what you do Heather. For better or worse, reading you always makes me want to write and sometimes I do.

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  9. When you say "that THERE WOULD NOT BE ENOUGH…," do you mean to enough to write about?

    Or enough to fulfill you otherwise? As in, there really is no happiness?

    Something else?

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  10. Hi Patrick, so emblazoned is this construct on my psyche I don't even think to finish the sentence! My fear is of not enough, period, of anything and everything, but specifically not enough food, money, time, energy, attention, forgiveness, good luck, and love. Five pork chops for seven people as I remember about the childhood supper table...then three more came along!...

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  11. Oh, Heather, I LOVE your take on the desert---brings back so many memories of the years my parents lived there...We actually DID see Perry Como a couple of times at a Chinese place in Palm Desert, north side of the Hwy., east of Monterey---fabulous, crispy fried shrimp (I'm sure my Dad made a "light collation" of them on several Lenten Fridays over the years). Having just read and loved "Parched" and "Redeemed" (tho "loved" sounds silly), and being about to finish "SofF", I am so glad you're writing another book. Please keep on contemplating the beauty of your surroundings, listening to the wind blow, reading Pessoa and writing--book and blog. And don't forget to report back from the Religious Ed Congress! You make our day....

    Victoria

    P.S. May I suggest Rossellini's "Flowers of St. Francis" for your Lenten movie-viewing, as a counterpoint to "Never Take Candy..."?

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  12. "Winding that yarn, I thought about how beneath so much sad stuff in my life has been the paralyzing fear that THERE WOULD NOT BE ENOUGH…"

    Heather- I get it. I am incredibly paralyzed these days with financial fear and there are actions, I can take....but, right now, I need to just breathe.

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