While many of my family members cavorted in the pool at a rental house in Indio, I sat reading James Boswell’s Boswell in Holland, 1763-1764. I had had a vicious siege of blepharitis that lasted for the better part of a year, so I was not about to subject my eyes to pool chemicals.
As I was eating my sister-in-law’s excellent orzo salad with olives, orange bell peppers, and feta cheese, my niece Hilary’s son Oliver came and sat down next to me. He had matured considerably since the time when, while rough-housing, he kicked me in the head. (Fortunately he was barefoot at the time.) Since that time, I have resolved never to rough-house with children. I could get hurt. Or worse, I can turn into my father and deliver an angry swat.
When my brother proposed I look after three children while their parents went elsewhere, I answered “No effing way!” Some people are not meant to be parents: I am one of that number. But then he knew, and he was only jesting with me.
Crouching: Oliver Moorman and Hilary Paris Moorman Standing: Jennifer Duche, Me, Lori Paris, Ely Moorman, Dan Paris, Joseph Moorman
Just to get the relationships straight:
Dan Paris is my younger brother. He is married to Lori Paris.
Jennifer Duche is Lori’s daughter from an earlier marriage.
Dan’s daughter from an earlier marriage is Hilary Paris (and therefore my niece).
Hilary Paris is married to Joseph Moorman with two sons, Oliver and Ely.
I just happened to wander into the picture.
Ours is a widely diverse family, including anti-vaxxers, a Trump supporter, a Yoga instructor, a Seattle Parks & Recreation employee, two Hungarians, a Master Builder, a travel specialist, and me—perhaps the strangest one of all.
Joe and Hilary rented an Air B&B house in Indio, California, where most of the get-togethers were held.
In addition to family stuff, I saw the new James Bond film (No Time to Die) and liked it, and I visited the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert, where I took pictures (which you will sample in the coming days).
The weather was a bit on the cool side, with a wild and windy rain squall on my final evening in the desert.
It looks kind of idyllic, doesn’t it? The damned thing is it can be idyllic, or it can be hellacious. Fortunately, the weather in the desert is cooling somewhat, and I don’t have to worry about losing any skin if I touch any of the metal surfaces on my car.
On Saturday, I will drive to Palm Springs for a mini-family-reunion, staying in a cheap motel in the area. I am primarily interested in spending time with my brother and sister-in-law, and I hope to take some pictures of the weekend. Martine will stay behind in L.A., as she is not feeling well.
Monday is Columbus Day. Although it has become something of a bogus holiday, it is still observed by governments, banks, and some school districts; so I will stay on until Tuesday morning, when I drive back to Los Angeles.
“Mitch the Witch II” with Two Confirmed Japanese Warship Victims
The Coachella Valley means a lot more to me than giant rock concerts. There’s Mount San Jacinto brooding over the valley, the Living Desert Zoo and gardens in Palm Desert, delicious Deglet Noor dates, and, of course, the Palm Springs Air Museum.
Apparently, a lot of WW2 pilots found their way to the Coachella Valley and contributed their efforts to making the Palm Springs Air Museum one of the best in the United States. While they are still walking the earth, these are the best and most learned docents on the subject that you can find anywhere.
“Bunny”—Is She African-American?
The Museum is located on Gene Autry Trail on the east side of the Palm Springs Airport. As you see the exhibits parked outside, you can watch passenger jets take off and land just a few hundred feet away.
You can even climb up on one of the WW2 bombers and walk through it, marveling at how lightweight and flimsy it appears to be.
“King of the Cats”
I find I can spend hours wandering among the hundred or so aircraft, stores inside and out, and dreaming what it must have been like to fight two enemies on opposite sides of the globe.
Looking Up from the Book I Was Reading, This Was the View
It was good to see my brother again after four months of quarantining alone with Martine. Because she hates the desert (having lived and work for two years in Twentynine Palms), Martine stayed behind in L.A. and engaged in several cleaning projects which would have been difficult with me tromping about the place.
Dan and my sister-in-law Lori were, as usual, excellent hosts. Dan went out of his way to cook several gourmet meals including a vegetarian lasagna with eggplant and spinach as well as corned beef and cabbage with potatoes and carrots. We didn’t visit many places, because the Coachella Valley is still under a Covid-19 lockdown. But I did manage to read two whole books sitting in Dan’s back yard. The weather was perfect, an even 70° Fahrenheit (21° Celsius) with an occasional cool breeze.
The photo above was taken from the chair in which I was reading Hilaire Belloc’s Selected Essays and Jon Krakauer’s Classic Krakauer: Essays on Wilderness and Risk. (I love reading essays, as I consider myself to be something of an essay writer, but in a small way.)
My Brother Dan at the Moorten Cactus Garden in Palm Springs
Because Dan lives in the lower desert of California, I would not venture to visit him during the blazingly hot summer months. I hope that he can make it to L.A., or I will have to wait until the fall to drive out again.
This weekend I will drive out to the Coachella Valley to see my brother. It won’t be long before the temperature goes up to 100° F (37° Celsius) and over each day. Although Dan has air conditioning at his place, I don’t want to step outside only to be instantly dehydrated.
At this time of year, the desert can be beautiful. Alas, it has been a dry year, and thus not a great time for wildflowers. I remember times when I visited the desert in February and March to find it filled with uncounted millions of wildflowers, ranging from tiny blossoms to large cactus flowers.
Consequently, I will not post again until Monday, March 1. I hope to take a lot of pictures to use in next week’s posts.
This next weekend, I will break quarantine for the first time to visit my brother Dan and sister-in-law Lori in Palm Desert, near Palm Springs. It will still be hot as Hades, but for the first time I will have a chance to talk face to face with someone other than just Martine.
She, by the way, will not be coming with me. Having lived and worked for a couple years at Twentynine Palms in the Morongo Valley, about an hour north of Dan, she hates the desert with a passion.
I would not live in the desert, as my brother does, but I enjoy visiting it from time to time—especially when the dead heat of summer begins to let up.
Perhaps I can visit a couple of places that I particularly like, such as the Thousand Palms Oasis or the Indian Canyons south of Palm Springs. More likely, I will be reading some books and taking advantage of Dan’s air conditioning and swimming pool. And, of course, his cooking.
As usual, I will be leaving L.A. before the sun rises. I will stop at Hadley Fruit Orchards In Cabazon to do some shopping before making a beeline to Palm Desert. Right around Cabazon, I will set my car radio dial to MOD-FM 107.3 to listen to their parade of classical 1950s hits with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, and their ilk.
Dan Carefully Measures the Internal Temperature of the Meat
One of the highlights of my weekend trip to visit my brother and family in Palm Desert is a growing family tradition known as Meat-a-Palooza. Dan is an incredible chef, and he loves to prepare a feast featuring a variety of meat dishes. Incredibly, he is able to single-handedly prepare a multi-course feast that is all ready to be served at the same time. I can’t even do that with two dishes, let alone a dozen.
I don’t think I’m a bad cook, but I simply can’t compare with Dan. Everybody always asks him why he doesn’t open a restaurant. In answer, he merely smiles and begs to differ. He knows that running a restaurant is more than anything a form of slavery, involving long hours seven days a week. Visiting Dan’s place is always a special treat for me.
The Same Beef Dish on Serving Plate
The curious thing is that I am gradually turning into a vegetarian, but that all is put on hold when it is Meat-a-Palooza time. Dan’s dishes are always top drawer and worth eating irrespective of one’s foodie beliefs.
A Family Portrait at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
Standing in the above picture (left to right) are me; my sister-in-law Lori Paris; the children’s nanny Katia from Toluca, Mexico; my brother Dan; Lori’s son Danny Duche; my niece Hilary Paris Moorman; Lori’s daughter Jennifer Duche. In the front row are Oliver Moorman, Joseph Moorman, and Ely Moorman. The photo was snapped by a friendly tourist who was reciprocating for a picture we took of them. I kind of look like a fire hydrant who wandered into the picture.
The ten of us came to Palm Desert from L.A. (me), Seattle (Joe, Hilary, and sons with Katia the au pair), San Francisco (Jennifer), and Denver (Danny Duche). It was nice to see the whole family all in one place.
Oliver Moorman, Age 4, with Palo Verde Tree in Background
I just returned today from the Coachella Valley where I attended a family reunion on the occasion of several birthdays appearing close together. Plus I had the chance to spend more time with the youngest members of the family, my niece Hilary’s two sons. Oliver and Ely. As she lives in the Seattle area, I don’t have too many occasions to see her, her husband Joe, and their two boys.
Yesterday, we spent several hours at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, where my brother Dan lives. You will see several pictures taken there over the next week or so. According to Condé Nast Traveler, it is one of the ten best zoos in the United States. In my opinion, it is the very best. At present, it concentrates on the desert animals on two continents: North America and Africa. Under construction is a small enclave dedicated to the plants and animals of Australia.
My Niece Hilary with Youngest Son Ely, Aged 1½, at the Living Desert Petting Zoo
One of the most fun things about visiting a place like the Living Desert is to see its effect on young children. Ollie and Ely were as if in a magical realm, in which awe predominates. Even the goats in the Petting Kraal were a revelation to the two boys. Then there was the feeding of the giraffes, with their long tongues wrapping around the Romaine Lettuce the boys held out to them. Even the carousel, featuring endangered species worldwide, caught Ollie’s attention, as he rode on a giant hummingbird.
Ollie with My Brother Dan on Carousel
Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind spending more time at the Living Desert. I am not immune to being overawed.