A week later and I’m still singing the penultimate song from our forthcoming off-Broadway smash hit musical: Alan’s Lads.
“When I get back to my real life and I start to feeling sad,
I’ll think of all the memories shared and good times that we had…”
During the fifty minutes it took to run the 101 through the city to the highway turnoff, I was regretting my decision not to fly this year. I-10 west to California isn’t what you’d call a scenic drive, but half an hour out of Phoenix I was grateful for the windshield time. Having just been downsized out of a sweet in-house design job, I needed time to think.
Good-bye magical paychecks showing up in my bank account every two weeks. See ya later health insurance– it’s been a great two years.
The giant iced coffee I had on the way out of town was threatening to over-top the dam, so I pulled into the first rest area past the city limits. It was packed. Looked like ten buses of tourists mistook the pee stop for the grand canyon.
There’s a majesty and slight foreboding in a drive across the open desert alone. A glimpse of just how small and frail we really are.
Back on the road and passing more tractor trailers, I got a text from my buddy, Rory, asking what I’ve been up to. I didn’t answer until I crossed the Colorado and parked at Mickey D’s in Blythe.
“Listening to the Scorps’ No One Like You on a fuzz-crackle FM station just outside of Quartzite on my way to California,” I texted back.
The San Jacinto Mountains were a hazy blue in the distance. Rolling past the Salton Sea, Coachella, and Indio, I spotted the massive blades of the windmill farm at the turn off onto Indian Canyon Dr.
Apple maps can be a piece of shit, so after driving in circles and cursing for ten minutes, I switched to Google. Tucked under the looming peaks and away from the strip, I found the house. Alan Ladd’s house. A beautiful mid-mod ranch by architect Donald Wexler. The kind of place I’d buy if I had a few mil to blow on a vacation home in Palm Springs.
The early birds from LA and Portland were at the pool when I walked in. After the four hour drive and helping my brother move the day before, napping in the sun with a cold beer was just what I needed. That evening Miles won Rookie of the Year with his hot barbecue wings and burgers on the grill.
We played the dice game Threes and I finished $25 ahead. The colossal white marble table in the formal dining room was big enough to fit all eleven of us with room for whiskey glasses, beer bottles and stacks of poker chips. I don’t know how to play, but did anyway and lost 15 bucks.
More drinks and talkin’ shit at the fire pit, then went to bed way too late.
On Saturday Rick made his traditional big breakfast for the crew. Eggs, bacon, toast, and hash browns all cooked in the bacon grease with orange juice and coffee. A mid-century man’s breakfast.
Rick and Lee nagged each other about the community music selections. “Why are we listening to this moody bullshit?” Lee asked. “Ooh, I’m Lee, I only listen to east coast hardcore from ’79 to ’85– everything else sucks,” Rick fired back.
So Rick put on The Budos Band and everyone shut up and bobbed their heads in agreement. Seemed like I was the only one who’d never heard of them before. I immediately bought three of their records.
Snoozed through a late morning food coma by the pool and then Kevin and I walked a mile and a half to the grocery store to get water.
We took a moment of silence at Liberace’s house around the corner and filmed some b-roll for his 100 days video series. Good talk about the Youtube push to Patreon marketing mystery, getting back in shape and getting our shit together.
When we got back to the house Kevin and Farel started drawing in sketchbooks by the pool. I thought about getting mine, but fell asleep instead.
After the sun went down, we watched the Deadly Class pilot on the big TV. I was really psyched to see it and the show did not disappoint! All of the actors were great and did an excellent job of portraying their counterparts in the comic. Super excited for Rick and Miles– it turned out awesome!
Dinner was more excellent BBQ accompanied by a loud, repeating chorus of jerks over-emoting along with the troubled desperation of the song Marian by The Sisters of Mercy.
The single guys went bar-hopping on the strip while the rest of us played more poker. I won a few good hands and learned more about the game, but lost my stack along with everyone else to Miles who won it all. The story when the Singles returned from their quest was one of lame bars, too much walking, and the no-shit epiphany that Palm Springs night life is mostly dudes.
More fireside wisdom and off to bed.
Leftovers and lament for breakfast on Sunday– our final morning had arrived. We cleaned the house and gathered enough bottles and cans to overflow the recycling bin. The monster stash of junk food Maria sent with me had become mostly wrappers and regret.
Sitting by the pool for the last time thinking of the drive and all the shit to do back home, we heard a haunting song from inside the house:
“Alan Ladd, you’re not my real dad, but I wish you had
been there for me ‘cause now we have to go and I’m so saaaaad,
Alan Laaaaaaadd, Alan Ladd!”
We hoped it was Alan’s ghost, but as the voice got louder and came into the back yard we could see it was just Rick singing his farewell.
“What will we do now that we must leave your awesome pad?
We hugged out our good-byes with back slaps like guys do and hit the road. Rolling back across the desert with just static on the radio in my ’04 Accord, I had more time to think. It’s the fifth year of the annual trip and sometimes it can seem like a pain in the ass to make the time and spend money for stuff like this, but it’s worth it. Laughing with friends over cold beers in the sun is one of the best things in life. Just go. If not, you’ll look back and wish you had.
“…And maybe then when things seem hopeless I won’t feel so bad,
Alan Laaaaadd, Alan Ladd!”