Wendy and I have greatly missed our friends, Kevin and Linda, who packed up their possessions in Pella and moved out to Palm Springs, California a few months ago. So, when Wendy happened to see that our airline had some super-saver deals we jumped at the chance to fly out to spend a few days with the snowbirds this past week. And, as the weather has been unseasonably cold, windy, and snowy in Iowa, it came at a great time.
We were supposed to arrive mid-day on Tuesday, but travel delays meant we got rerouted and spent much more time in airports than planned. Nevertheless, we arrived at 7:45 pm and enjoyed dinner with Kevin and Linda. We enjoyed playing with Linda’s dog, Ginsberg, and talking way too late into the evening, or wee hours of the morning as was the reality for our midwest bodies.
It was a gorgeous day on Wednesday. So much fun to sit in on the deck and look out at the sun on the mountains as I got a little work done. Once everyone was up and going we walked the mile from their condo to the main strip in Palm Springs, taking time to browse through some shops. The chorizo queso at Maracas has become a favorite of ours, so we had lunch there. Kevin and I picked up cigars to enjoy after dinner that evening. We walked back and napped in the afternoon. Dinner was on the patio at another Palm Springs favorite, Tropicale. We enjoyed cigars around the pool in the evening and even dipped our feet in the hot tub.
Thursday was unseasonably cold and rainy for Palm Springs, but we didn’t let it dampen our day. Our friends gave us a tour of mid-century modern architecture around Palm Springs and we grabbed a burger at a local grill. The afternoon was spent visiting, napping, and reading. We took in the Palm Spring Art Museum in the evening for dining at Kaiser Grill.
The trip was all too quick. It felt like we blinked and it was over. We enjoyed brunch together at Pinocchio’s along with Kevin and Linda’s friend, Michael, who had flown in for a visit late the previous evening. Then, it was back to reality. We met snow in our layover in Denver. Ugh.
Blessed to have gotten a few days of r&r with our friends, however. Can’t wait for the next time.
Gorgeous day for a walk uptown.
Not-so-grumpy old men.
A room tiled with chocolate at Palm Springs Art Museum.
Palm Springs Art Museum.
Wendy and her friend, Ginsberg.
This is NOT an example of mid-century modern architecture.
“…but abide the change of time, Quake in the present winter’s state, and wish That warmer days would come.”
– Shakespeare (Cymbeline 2.4)
Even casual readers of my blog will know that my posting has been, at best, haphazard of late. For almost 11 years I’ve managed to average close to one post a day, but I found myself in an unintended sabbatical of late. I’m at a loss to easily say why. Let’s chalk it up to a mixed winter’s tempest of draining musical production, nasty virus that won’t go away, longer than average holidays, seemingly endless activity, year-end responsibilities, new-year responsibilities, awful head cold, then topped off by what feels like endless business travel.
In the midst of it, however, Wendy and I sought to escape the depths of Iowa winter to visit our friends Kevin and Linda in Palm Springs. Our dear neighbors undertook their first adventure as “snowbirds.” We have greatly missed their good company. So, we snuck out for a relational “fix” while enjoying a week in the sun.
Neither Wendy nor I have spent any time in Palm Springs. I drove through on a business trip many years ago, but did not stay. Kevin and Linda have a lovely little condo with requisite swimming pool. They also had a cute little deck where the four of us could sit and quaff drinks while attempting to solve the world’s problems into the wee hours of multiple mornings. We didn’t solve the world’s problems, and we argued like the Founding Fathers over several issues which kept the neighbors awake. We also found things on which to agree – and in the end we toasted love in both our unity and our diversity (and then we joyfully did it all again the next day).
Our agenda for the week was very simple. We wanted to enjoy the good company of our good friends over good meals and good drink…and do a little reading for pleasure in the sun by the pool. Mission accomplished. We loved the Tropical where cocktails were accompanied with gorgonzola stuffed, bacon-wrapped plums. We also loved Melvyn’s which doesn’t seem to have changed since the days when Frank Sinatra regularly haunted the corner barstool. We had margaritas and chorizo queso on the patio of Maracas not once, but twice. So many great memories were made.
We also took the Palms Springs Tramway from the desert floor to the top of the mountains that loom like a giant wall on the town’s western border. A little shopping is always in order and we found two hat shops where we each found a new hat for the lake this summer (actually, I found two). There is a Thursday evening market along the main thoroughfare and we enjoyed an after dinner stroll through the endless rows of vendors and listened to the street musicians.
Wendy and I also took the opportunity for a day trip to Arizona where we visited our good friend Ann who has been teaching Theatre there for the past few years. It was a fascinating road trip through the desert for us, along the Salton Sea and through the Sahara-like dunes just west of Yuma. Definitely a departure from cornfields and cattle.
Kevin and I took in a baseball game one gloriously sunny afternoon. The Palm Springs Winter League is for college kids and minor league cast-offs who are are hoping for an invitation to MLB Spring Training. According to the league’s marketing, about half of them will earn one. I was excited to learn that the catcher for one of the teams played for my alma mater, Judson. It was also interesting to watch him catch for a young woman who came into the game to pitch in relief. I can’t wait for baseball season to start.
We returned home having made some great memories, and having enjoyed a nice break to the cold and snow. We are a little less apt to “quake in the present winter’s state.”
Enjoy a few of my photos of the trip.
Dinner on the patio. In FEBRUARY!
The chorizo queso was so good at Maracas, that we had to go back for more.
Palm Springs Mayor, Sonny Bono. My brush with greatness.
Some people are less impressed with nature than others.
Strolling the Thursday evening market.
Cheers to Mother England from Palm Springs!
Baseball, sculpture, sunshine, and a gorgeous mountain landscape.
Mountains loom over Palm Springs like a giant wall.
Lunch in the sun!
You have to respect a town with TWO good hat shops!
Drinks on the mountain top.
Fear not. I escaped.
A British pub is always a good idea.
We fought the crowds at the Palm Springs Winter League.
Bob Ross socks. Awesome.
Here we go! Hangin’ in the United Club on our layover in Denver.
Palm Springs Tram… taking us to a mountain top experience.
We stopped here…twice.
Spartan street cellists. Who knew?
Thursday night market in the heart of Palm Springs.
This private skywalk is part of a nudist colony that spans both sides of the street. We don’t have one of these in Iowa.
“My, what a big lens you have,” she said to me.
Love. Love. Love.
Cocktails at the Tropicale!
Even as I watch her standing and staring at some random street art, she makes my heart skip a beat.
Drinks at Melvyn’s, where Frank hung out back in the day.
I’m a little late on the publishing of my Sunday Summary this week. There was a lot happening early in the week. Wendy and I were excited to finally see our yard getting graded and seeded with grass. We were thankful for a couple good rains late in the week.
The early part of the week also included a whirlwind of work that had to get done early and a business trip to northwest Iowa. On Thursday evening Wendy and I headed down to the lake with our friends Kevin and Becky. We had to drive to Kansas City and pick up Kevin at the airport as he flew in from a business meeting in Denver. We arrived at the lake near midnight.
It was a bit overcast on Friday, nevertheless we got out on the boat for a slow cruise in the morning. We headed into town in the early afternoon and went to BWW for lunch. Becky went shopping while the rest of us stayed to watch the Cubs take on the Cardinals. We were about the only people in the restaurant and the manager, Darin, came over to chat with us. One thing led to another and Kev and I found ourselves doing a “tasting” of their four hottest sauces. We were even given complimentary boneless wings with them. My digestive system is still recovering.
As usual, our weekend with Kevin and Becky revolved around food, drink and rather intense conversation lasting deep into the night. Great salmon dinner on Friday and then burgers on the grill on Saturday night. We, of course, also found time for some sun and fun. On Saturday afternoon we spent a lot of time on the dock in the sun. Becky insisted we say good-bye to summer with one last boat right. We headed in the boat to both Bulldog’s Beach House and Larrywood for some refreshment.
Sunday morning we packed up and headed home, arriving back at VW Manor around 5:00. Wendy and I unpacked and settled in to watch the Vikings beat the Lions on the DVR.
It was a week of major life transition here at Vander Well Manor. Just over two years ago, Wendy’s youngest sister Suzanna moved in with us. She entered her senior year at Pella High and then spent this past year working and saving for college. She’s been a welcome member of our home and together we’ve shared a ton of life experiences during this shared stretch of our life journeys. This past Wednesday was the day we drove her to college and launched her on a new stretch of her own journey. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Monday and Tuesday were spent packing, purging, and preparing. Both Suzanna and Wendy buzzed around upstairs. Suzanna took over the guest bedroom for her sorting and staging process.
Tuesday night was Suzanna’s last night at home, so we let her decide the meal. Her choice was Wendy’s homemade pizza and breadsticks. She also requested family movie night to watch The Big Lebowski, which she and I have talked about watching for months. Taylor invited her friend Curtis to join us. It was a fun night. We all gathered around the kitchen island and enjoyed conversation as Wendy made dinner. Despite me dropping one of the pizzas and losing half of it into the bottom of the oven, we had a great dinner and then settled into the Great Room for the movie (and requisite White Russians).
We packed the cars and headed out around 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday for the two hour drive to Suzanna’s campus. She followed behind us. The load out was fast and much easier than we anticipated. Suzanna’s roommate had moved in the previous day and we enjoyed meeting her. After the last of her stuff had been dropped in the room we offered to take Suzanna out to lunch and make sure she was familiar with where things were in town. She opted for lunch with her roommate and some girls on the floor. As we said good-bye the mood went from smiles and excitement to teary good-byes. Wendy and I lunched at BWW on our own before driving home.
Taylor did some house-sitting for friends late this week so Wendy and I had four nights of experiencing an empty nest for the first time in a while. But, our social calendar kept us from savoring the quiet.
On Thursday night we headed to the Pella Opera House for their annual season kick-off. Our friend and neighbor, Kevin, is the Executive Director there and is in the middle of an audacious million dollar renovation campaign. We were excited when Kevin announced they’d reached $800,000 towards their goal. In October the Opera House celebrates 25 years since their historic renovation. A grand black-tie evening is on tap and Kevin asked me to script a sketch as part of the evening’s entertainment. Wendy and I enjoyed hanging out and socializing with friends. We were among the last to leave when Kevin flashed the lights at the end of the evening.
On Friday night we enjoyed barbecue chicken on the grill with our friend Cyndi who will be taking over as President of Union Street Players. We discussed transition of leadership as well as the transitions of both Suzanna and Cyndi’s daughter, Megan, who also headed to college. Kevin and Linda arrived after dinner and we settled downstairs in “V-dub Pub” (thanks, Chad VL, for that moniker). I unveiled my script for the Pella Opera House Anniversary show and was happy that it received a favorable review from the Producer. As always with this crew, spirited conversation and laughter reigned until well after midnight.
A couple of short nights led Wendy and me to a rather slow start on Saturday. We worked a little bit and eventually busied ourselves cleaning up the upstairs in anticipation of Wendy’s Uncle Brad and his bride-to-be Barb who spent the night with us on Saturday. I spent part of the afternoon helping my friend, Matthew, move a washer and a couple of dryers into his new house. We then met Matthew and his new bride, Sarah, at Kaldera for dinner and a celebration of their one-week anniversary.
I end this week’s episode of The Latest with a relatively insignificant, but admittedly proud moment. Yesterday in the mail I received my first ever royalty check for my play Ham Buns and Potato Salad which is being produced by Newton Community Theater this fall.
Wendy and I enjoyed our two weeks at the lake, though I admit that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed as I enter back into the fray. We will have been home less than two days before we take off for a three day business trip to the Twin Cities. So much to do. So little time.
Nevertheless, we can look back at two gorgeous weeks punctuated by wonderful visits from dear friends. In all the years I’ve been going down to the Lake of the Ozarks, I can’t remember a more beautiful two week stretch in August. Usually the temps are above 100 degrees fahrenheit, the lake feels like tepid bath water, and you feel like stepping out of the house is similar to stepping out in an oven. The past two weeks the temps rarely got above the mid-eighties. Cool overnight temps created a sea of mist over the lake, and Wendy even wore a sweatshirt one night on the deck.
During the week Wendy and I did worked to keep projects moving along. The nice thing about working from the lake is that we can take a few hours off in the afternoon, get out on the water, and enjoy the sun. We enjoyed the quiet and togetherness on our week days alone.
The first weekend we enjoyed a visit by our friends, Kevin and Linda. On the second weekend it was our friend Matthew and his daughter, Olivia. As a hobbit might say, “It rained food and drink” until we were “filling up the corners.” There was sweet laughter and great conversation, warm sunshine and cool water.
It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over. In just ten days we’ll be heading back down for Labor Day weekend and the official end of the high season. Where does the time go?
The elders no longer sit in the city gates; the young men no longer dance and sing. Joy has left our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning. Lamentations 5:14-15 (NLT)
I had a great evening with my friend, Kevin, last night. It was guys night, and after wonderful meal out we drank cold beer in the hot evening and smoked cigars while sharing great conversation. One of the things I most appreciate about my friend is that he can not only talk about sports (last night we talked through and decided who we thought the best Chicago Cub of all time at each position on the field…more on that in a minute), but we can also talk about theatre and the stage with equal passion.
Last night I made the comment that I personally don’t enjoy musical theatre as well as non-musical theatre because, well, in everyday real life we don’t break out in song. Kevin pounced on my snooty declaration as if I had just suggested that Carlos Marmol was the best Cubs pitcher of all time. “I think we DO break out in song all the time,” Kevin argued (and I paraphrase). “We think about music, situations bring songs to our heads, and we regularly break out in song in the shower, in the car, and when I’m talking with my wife!” I hesitated and conceded the point, thinking to myself that I should have clarified: we don’t break out in large scale production numbers.
I get to the end of the prophet Jeremiah’s poem of Lamentation this morning and stumbled on the verse I pasted at the top of this post. How fascinating that after describing scenes of societal breakdown, starvation, cannibalism, torture, and rape the prophet sums it up by saying: our young men no longer break out in singing and dancing, the joy has left our hearts.
For the record, Kevin was right and I stand corrected by the ancient prophet. God forbid that this life should ever become an endless and tragic Long Days Journey Into Night without All That Jazz to keep us breaking out in joyful song.
So, it was a month ago that Kev and Beck joined us at the lake for our annual weekend together. We spent some time that weekend trying to figure out how many years we’ve been making the early summer pilgrimage. I think we landed on this being our 7th year. The trip has typically been a weekend before Memorial Day event, though this year we pushed it into the weekend after Memorial Day so as to ensure a little warmer weather. With it being such a cold, wet spring, we’re glad we did. We had wonderful weather and, as usual, a great time together.
The thing about the weekend with Kevin and Becky is that the agenda is pretty simple: