Monday, December 31, 2007

Drink, Drive, and Call 911

On the 500-mile drive from Palm Springs to San Francisco...

...we kept noticing large illuminated signs along the highway encouraging us to rat out drunk drivers by calling 911.

In case you happened to miss these looming horrors, fixed signage with the same message was posted along the roadway and at rest stops.

The question that immediately arose was how do you tell the difference between a drunk driver and a crappy driver or even a dangerous one who weaves in and out of traffic?

As a non-driver, I can confidently state that I've been in more danger from sober, bad drivers than slightly drunk, skillful ones but in our new Nanny State, those kind of distinctions count for nothing.

Still, the new catchphrase we were sharing during the entire drive to San Francisco was, "I think it may be time to call 911, dear. That driver in the red truck who won't move over to the slow lane is a real asshole. He MUST be drunk."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Czech Art Glass

The Palm Springs Art Museum has a new director and a few newly spruced up galleries, including a small alcove devoted to "art glass."

The revelation in the group were a trio of pieces by the Czech husband-and-wife team of Jaroslava Brychtova and Stanislav Libensky, who just died in 2002.

Click here for a nice essay about Libensky and Brychtova (above) and and their professor in the 1940s and 1950s at the Prague Academy, Josef Kaplický.

Their modernist glass sculptures seemed to glow from the inside in the oddest ways imaginable...

...and made a lot of the other work look rather dull.

Also showing at the Palm Spring Arts Museum is a 34-piece exhibition, "Picasso to Moore: Modern Sculpture from the Weiner Collection" (click here for an interesting "Palm Springs Life" story about the exhibit and the Weiner family). The patriarch, Ted Weiner, was originally from Oakland who became a wildcatter in Texas and who grew into an extremely rich and powerful oilman (that's Ted below, fourth from the left, posing at the first Jewish country club in Fort Worth, flanked by Ben Hogan, Jack Benny, club pro Dick Metz, and producer Hal Wallis).

He started buying mostly modernist sculptures in the 1940s, and had promised his collection to Texas cultural institutions, but brought most of his art with him when he moved with his family to Palm Springs in the early 1960s, where he became one of the first trustees of the Palm Springs Art Museum. In any case, Ted's no longer around but his daughter Gwendolyn gives a major sculpture to the museum every year, which is nice since the collection is amazing, without a bad piece in the bunch. (The photo above, by the way, is from a recently published book from the Brandeis University Press entitled "Lone Stars of David: The Jews of Texas.")

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Affluent Canyons 1

The condo my partner Tony bought in Palm Springs... a modest little one-bedroom in a ten-unit complex with a swimming pool and 51 palm trees...

...but the neighborhood it is sitting in is quite a few scales up the economic ladder from our current and probable future estate.

Most of our neighbors own huge, detached homes...

...with small armies of Mexican gardeners taking care of their foliage and palm trees...

...for visits during Palm Spring's society "season," which starts about now and continues through April.

The neighborhood is bounded by Palm Canyon Drive (Palm Springs' main drag) to the east, the San Jacinto mountains to the west, and the famous Tahquitz canyon (below) to the south.

You'd think there would be nowhere left for real estate developers to try and create luxury developments in the neighborhood, but then underestimating the greed of real estate developers is usually a bad bet.

Affluent Canyons 2

On Christmas Eve, I decided to see if there was a shortcut of a hike to Tahquitz Canyon along the wash from Tahquitz Creek.

After startling hundreds of birds on various phone lines...

...and surprising a hobo couple who were having sex in the bushes...

...I came across a new, gated development called "The Canyons"

...complete with artful landscaping around its large walls.

The place gave me the creeps for some reason, and I continued toward Tahquitz Canyon...

...but after being frightened by what sounded like a rattlesnake along the pathway...

...I headed back towards the Indian Canyons and their affluent developments for safety.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Have Yourself a Gay Little Christmas

The incessant catchphrase among all things design and architectural in Palm Springs is "Mid-Century Modern," and the house above in the mostly gay Warm Sands neighborhood is a perfect example.

The Neptune statue in front with the skimpy Santa outfit, however, is what you'd call more Late-Century Gay. Have a merry christmas, everyone.

Monday, December 24, 2007

We Paved Paradise

As regular readers know, I'm not a big fan of car culture, so I was dreading the 500-mile drive from San Francisco to Palm Springs on Saturday.

If there was a high-speed train to Los Angeles and then another train to Palm Springs, I would be one of its first and happiest travelers, but we don't live in that world right now.

Still, the skies and the countryside were so beautiful Saturday morning as we drove through the Livermore valley...

...and onto Interstate 5, that I uttered the foolish words, "This is going to be a really beautiful drive."

Unfortunately, we picked the wrong day for travel where three million SUVs packed with families were going to visit grandma...

...and at one point the traffic stopped altogether for an hour or so after a minor fender bender between a couple of vehicles.

What was even worse is that the San Joaquin Valley feels like being on a poisoned planet, with the air getting grungier and more polluted the further south you travel. The Grapevine pass above was invisible until we were a couple of miles away from it.

The air in the San Joaquin Valley is so bad that the Los Angeles basin looked like a pristine natural environment in comparison.

That is, until one runs into the Interstate 5 traffic around Magic Mountain where the traffic crawls in a stop-and-start manner for miles at a time.

Though the 210 highway wasn't much quicker when we turned east, the combination of mountains, light and a nearly full moon was fairly breathtaking.

Plus, you get to drive through towns with strange names like Azusa.

We're all complicit in this natural disaster...

...and I only pray that we change course during my lifetime.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winter Solstice at The Eagle

The Eagle bar at 12th and Harrison has been a gay leather bar with a large backyard since the 1970s.

Even when I was of an age where it was fun hanging out at bars looking for possible love, friendship and adventure, the Eagle was never my favorite though I always did love their outdoor fire pit which reminded me of the fire pit I grew up with at a Taco Bell in Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara.

The Eagle always struck me as a bit too "leather" and mannered and brutal to be a place where I wanted to be a familiar face, but when I received an email out of the ether last week to join them for a "Winter Solstice" party on the evening of December 21st with a live band, I figured why not.

The band included one of the owners of the bar along with six or seven other young male musicians who were having a blast playing together with electronic pulsers, drums, and various electronic guitars. They were being listened to by a small crowd of old gay leather queens, old gay hippies, and young boyfriends and girlfriends of members of the band.

Outside in the patio, there were about 30 young gays accompanied by their fag hag friends, and then closer to the firepit was a whole other subscrulture who were quite amazing. They were extremely butch lesbians dressed in black leather vests with cropped haircuts who looked exactly like the guys who used to hang out in this bar's backyard in the 1970s. Plus, they were joined by a couple of female-to-male transgenders which really gave the mix a distinct flavor of confusion, plus a few slutty, fat females who were caressing these butch women/men in extremely suggestive fashion.

I walked back home to the Civic Center thanking the gods that I was not only living in such a cool, strange place as San Francisco, but that we were at a moment in time where the witches in different tribes were starting to feel comfortable with each other.