After a series of right angles on the country lanes just south of the Salton Sea in search of mudpots, we turned left on the 111 north and dropped by Bombay Beach for the first time in years. Two things: they moved the dart board at the Ski Inn so you are less likely to be killed by a drunk old lady at 11 in the morning when within ten feet of bullseye, and also, there are serious signs of post-apocalyptic gentrification. The burned out mobile home is gone, for one thing, and ancient cars were not lying about in pieces like dinosaur bones after a particularly nasty extinction event. Nor were there fetid pools of water or the bouquet of a million dead tilapia. Art work has appeared, psilocybin inspired cartoons and images splashed on unroofed walls, some quite striking, always a bad sign. Even worse, there was now literary graffiti–“Charles Bukowski Lives”–scrawled across one abandoned home. Lowbrow literary graffiti, but still. And while Michael McClure Lives would have been more appropriate since, well, he does, none of this mattered at the Ski Inn, a perfect desert dive, where we quaffed ice cold beers and listened to the surly old people talking and thinking how soon that will be us, if not already.
Was at an empty bar in Palm Springs off season once and the bartender was saying how out there you had to know how to make all the old style cocktails, so I got drunk on Louisiana Flips. Just like Lionel Barrymore in Grand Hotel. And like Lionel Barrymore, I fell down. Ouch. But man, those Louisiana Flips…they were wonderful things, some kind of yellowish concoction if I remember right, and you could down ’em like creme soda. I haven’t dast another since….besides, my wife told me I began quoting the movie to the bewildered bartender. I vant to be alone, I said. So she left.
I followed her a flip or two (or maybe three) later. Our room was a quick few steps across a parking lot that became positively oceanic on the walk–if you can call it that–back. But I did well, I thought, tacking a little to port, to starboard…it wasn’t till the elevator door opened and I fell like a redwood that there was a problem. Surprised the hell out of me, how that elevator door opened to nothing but space. A fall is a long drop for a tall man. Several feet of air to plunge through and the floors are always hard and unforgiving. Gravity is merciless, Isaac Newton a vile little man. There were no witnesses, though, save a swollen, angry knee.
Palm Springs, ya know, people come, people go, nothing ever happens. Except I fell down. It was worth it, though. I got to be Lionel Barrymore. Maybe next time I’ll be John Barrymore and not pay my hotel bill.