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Monday, November 21, 2005

Hot Soak, Dead Hog

My wife gave me my belated birthday present - a long weekend in Desert Hot Springs.

All this time in Los Angeles and I had never been to Palm Springs, or the nearby Desert Hot Springs, or the slightly nearby Joshua Tree National Park. Now I have done these things. These things have been done by me.

You can do lots of soaking at Desert Hot Springs. We did soaking. We soaked in boiling water. We soaked in 98.6 degree water (37 celsius). We soaked in room temperature water. We soaked and soaked. We soaked well. We were happy to soak. We soaked at night, with a spotlight gibbous moon overhead, and cool desert air on our faces. We soaked with the soaking plaza all to ourselves...

...except for the Black Widow spider taking an evening constitutional around the edge of our soaking pool.

We shouted. We threatened. We splashed.

And the Black Widow slunk back into its crevice to bide its time till a less canny pair of victims came along. We were too strong, too mighty. We fled to the next pool.

One evening we drove through Joshua Tree National Park, where you can see many Joshua Trees, as well as rock formations that are - literally - older than your grandmother. I think I saw Bono lurking in a dry river bed. As night fell, we pulled to the side of the road and we stood staring up into a sky gray with stars, surrounded by deafening desert silence.

As we drove out of the park, a Kangaroo Rat hopped out of the desert and into our headlights.


My wife shrieked. She insisted we go back to see if we had killed it.

We went back. We saw. We had killed it.

We confessed our crime to the Park Ranger at the gate. We apologized. She said, "Well, the coyotes have gotta eat too." - which made us feel better.

That night I dozed off watching my favorite tv show. In this episode, young Kumiko Kobayashi, the only Japanese woman to have been admitted to a certain famous French culinary school (the name of which I've forgotten) challenged Iron Chef French, Hiroyuki Sakai. The ingredient was Mishima Beef. Kobayashi lost, 3 to 1.

We departed Desert Hot Springs, rested, cheerful, groggy, happy, dry-lipped, me with a belly full of pork products injested at the hotel's breakfast buffet.

As we headed up a supernaturally straight stretch of barren road, my wife proudly proclaimed her sighting of a dead hog.

She insisted we go back, so I could see it. We went back. I saw it.

Big hog. White hog. Dead hog. Many many flies. No evidence of blood.

Had the hog been left as a sign by one of San Bernardino County's many bizarre religious cults? Or had it leaped from a passing truck in an eleventh-hour attempt to escape the carniceria? Or were one of the local white supremacist terrorist organizations interrupted while preparing for a midnight trip to the local mosque?

We would never know.

We decided to agree that seeing a dead white hog in the desert was a sign of good luck. And I added an amendment that the amount of good luck increased, somehow or other, with the number of flies that could be counted on the corpse. We would be very lucky indeed!

A luxurious drive back to L.A., via Joshua Tree, me gawking at gigantic nature and veering dangerously, while my wife read aloud interesting passages from a book about the geologies and ecologies of the park.

Arriving home, we were shunned by resentful cats.

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