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Oysters In The Desert

True story.

I am retired and usually spend my days mentally assessing the state of world affairs while watching Court TV and channel surfing looking for shows with shower scenes. Alys, on the other hand, has a life of friends and family and an occupation and spends most of her time screening my calls and texts. Still we find time to visit each other a few times a year. I will either fly down there, or she will fly up here to see me. 

On this particular visit, I decided that it would be nice to make an 8-hour drive to enjoy the scenery instead of flying. Unfortunately approximately 1.2 million other drivers that day had the same idea. Alys had convinced me that this trip should be spent in Palm Desert, CA. The Hollywood hideaway of movie stars and celebrities. Sure. Dead ones. 

Frank Sinatra Blvd. Sammy Davis Avenue. Joey Bishop Street. Johnny Carson Expressway. It really doesn't enhance the trip when you realize you're driving on pavement named for a dead guy. It was so fricken hot that there were absolutely no humans in sight anywhere. Just miles and miles of empty sidewalks. 

I kind of had a feeling this trip might be different when I checked into the resort and had to walk through a bevy of heavy misters to cool off before entering the lobby. The thermometer read !?! instead of numbers. I looked on my FitBit and it said "Holy Shit! Walk faster!" 

As I waited for my date to arrive, I stood in the air conditioned lobby looking out at the valet guy who had a podium near the drive entrance with absolutely no shade at all. Every time he leaned forward onto the podium in heat exhaustion, he would snap back and shake his arms from being burnt. I thought to myself, how much in tips would I have to make to do that job. I couldn't come up with a number. 

Alys finally arrived, and I crept through the misters again to go out and meet her. In her usual bubbly perky self, she suggested we go out to get some lunch. I looked back at the misters longingly and said OK. Little did I realize that I was about to enter the Twilight Zone. 

"What do you want to eat?" "I dunno, what do you want to eat?" So a quick check on the iPhone app said there was a steakhouse 1.7 miles down Frank Sinatra Blvd. I lowered the temp on the A/C and headed to Bob's Beef on the Hoof. Closed. 

"Well now what do you want to eat?" "I dunno." App check found a rib joint another 2.3 miles down Frank Sinatra Blvd. I lowered the A/C again and headed toward Elmo's Rib Crib. Closed. 

App check. Lower A/C all the way down and kick fan on high. If we head back down Frank Sinatra Blvd past where we started and go another 2.4 miles, we can eat Chinese. Once again I point the car in the right direction and head for Lim's Lichee Hut. Closed. 

In all seriousness, we went to 5 different restaurants. All were closed. Not just closed. Out of Business closed. To say Palm Desert is just shy of a ghost town is about as close to explaining it as I can get. Every shopping center we passed had one or more boarded up window. Sad really. Such desolation surrounded by such wealth. 

So just as we decided to stop at a 7-11 and grab a handful of pepperoni stix and a Fresca, we stumbled upon the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. A Red Lobster. Even a poorly run chain operation serving mediocre food sounded good at that point. Plus it wasn't on Frank Sinatra's sorry ass Blvd. I think it was on Spiro Agnew Parkway. 

I parked in a spot as close to the door as I could get. Without misters, I knew we were taking our lives into our hands. My FitBit read "You can't be serious!" We opened the door and ran for shade as fast as possible. Watching Alys run with her ample bosom distracted me, and I almost succumbed to the heat, but I wasn't about to get a street named after me in this damn town. 

We sat down in a booth close to an A/C vent. A hefty waitress named Beth asked, "What kin I gitcha?" My first thought is she must serve a lot of plates with gravy. Alys ordered some drink with seven kinds of rum and a Tequila shot on the side. I ordered a Cosmo. Oh, yes, "We'd like a dozen oysters." 

I know, I know. You're probably thinking what fools would order oysters in the desert. You would be right, but in our defense, they came on a big tray of ice. They get you with the ice down there. Hell is really just a big hot place with ice. And a waitress named Beth. 

At the time, the oysters seemed to pass smooth and cold. We also ordered the shrimp extravaganza. You know, it's the platter of shrimp, stacked 6 inches high, cooked 27 different ways with a tiny little child's tub of cocktail sauce so small a shrimp tail won't fit in it. I gotta think it's part of the ice thing in hell. 

We finished our meal, left Beth a nice tip and a hand drawn map back to Nebraska, and slowly drug our feet as we headed towards the door. I was trying to think, is it the manly thing to do and leave Alys in the shade and go get the car cooled off first? Or be a perv and watch her jog to the car. My FitBit read "Is that a trick question?" I pushed her out into the sun and yelled "Scurry!" 

Both of us took off for the car. I was hoping I wouldn't trip and end up like a nightcrawler on the sidewalk. I swear it was like somebody holding a magnifying glass over my head and toasting my ass like we used to do to ants as a kid. The heat inside the car felt like a dutch oven. I started looking around for elephants and cheetahs. I knew I must have crossed over into Africa somewhere between my house and Palm Desert. 

By the time we made it back to our suite at the resort, both of us were feeling queasy. The dash from our parking spot to our room was enhanced by the urgency to find solace in the bathroom. Being a gentleman, I let Alys go first. Of course, it helped that she hip checked me into the dining room table and sprayed Binaca into my eyes. 

We literally spent the next seven hours taking turns running into the bathroom. You never understand the true definition of humble until you try walking out of the bathroom looking cool after what must have sounded like a barnyard brawl between a bull and rabid wolf. Sheepish grins were glued to our faces. Oysters. Damn that ice. 

Our suite was a full kitchen, a dining room, a living room, a sitting room, master bedroom and master bath. A fireplace? Two large flatscreen TV's, a Jacuzzi tub, a laundry room, etc. It was the highlight of the trip. Plus it had two entrances into the bathroom.

Somewhere around 10:00 pm, Alys decided that we should go out grocery shopping. She wanted to make a pineapple cake, and we needed a bundt pan. My FitBit read "LMFAO!" At least the sun was down, and it was bound to be cooler. It was. 107 degrees. 

We shopped. Bought a bundt pan. I pushed the cart and hoped it would hide the loud cacophony of jungle growls from my stomach. I had no choice but to involuntarily crop dust the aisles as I walked. I saw a store clerk get light headed and a mother pushing a stroller keel over the cantaloupes. Luckily, Alys was in front of me looking for cake batter. 

Surprisingly, as bad as I felt the pineapple cake was amazing. I think I ate half of it. The bathroom trips were getting shorter in duration, and we finally went to bed physically exhausted about midnight or so. I got up sometime around 2:00 am and stepped out on the patio. I thought maybe birds or crickets or something would be out. But it was still 103 degrees! I put out several loaves of bread to rise and rushed back inside. My FitBit read "This shit is getting old!" 

I cranked the A/C down as low as I could. I've never sweated at 65 degrees before. Alys was snoring and mumbling something about witchcraft and space travel. I couldn't sleep so I cleaned the kitchen and watched TV for a while. There weren't any good shower scenes, so I went back to bed. 

It never dropped below 103 degrees the entire three days I was there. Now I know why it's called Palm Desert. It's the only tree that doesn’t give a damn inch of shade. It was a combination of running between air conditioned spaces, laser tag, and roller derby scrambles for the bathroom. I hid her Binaca, but she had me on the hip checks.

It wasn't the trip we both wanted. There were three major crashes on the freeways on my way home, and it took me 11 hours. I wouldn't have missed any of it. It wasn't as funny at that time as I made it here. But all things can be endured if Alys is alongside you.

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