Dentists, golfers, and old ladies

Had my usual coffee and cereal at around 7:00. I worked on a web project for most of the morning, taking breaks to read the news and listen to some Wilco. At around 11:00 I got on my bike and went for a bike ride. I ended up stopping at a couple of dentist offices downtown — I was hoping they could make a little adjustment on my braces which have been bugging me a bit. It’s amazing how many dentists there are in these retirement centres! Just like in Phoenix, it seems that there is an “urgent care” clinic and a dentist office at every corner. Gotta keep these old bodies from falling apart completely, I guess. I was just cycling around, checking out the neighbourhood, and was pleased to find that the Total Wine store just a couple of blocks from my house has plenty of Pilsner Urquell on hand, although I’ll have to visit them again when I’m driving the van — it’s a bit risky to transport a six-pack of bottles on the bicycle! Anyway, in the end I learned that no dentist in California is going to put their pliers in my mouth if I’m not their patient for fear of getting sued. America is, in the words of Warren Zevon, the land of lawyers, guns, and money. And wildfires too, I guess. (My brother emailed me, asking “What’s your opinion on the forest management practices there? Did you find them grossly mismanaged too?”) Fortunately there are no fires, and no wicked snowstorms, here in the land of country clubs and Betty Ford clinics and green fairways with pretty fountains to catch an errant tee shot and dentists who won’t adjust your braces. 

After lunch I continued slouching on the couch and coding on my MacBook — this surely can’t be good for my sore back! I checked GolfNow for a ‘hot deal’ — shoot! everything is discounted after 2:00pm — after all, the sun sets at 4:42 so fat chance you’ll finish 18 holes. And that’s how I ended up at Cathedral Canyon at around quarter after two. I paid $25, put my bag on the back of a cart, and headed for the first tee. I hit two balls off the tee, both good shots! I was zipping right along and caught up to the couple ahead of me on the third hole. They waved me to play through, which I did. (I pocketed my second ball and proceeded to hit a great 8 iron shot over the water hazard to within 12 feet of the pin with the couple looking on. Then I drove up in my cart, walked smartly onto the green, and sank that putt for my second par! “Nice putt,” says the man. I smiled, thanked them for letting me play through, and drove off to the next tee box. For the record, that NEVER happens — almost without fail, when someone lets me play through I get nervous and make a TERRIBLE shot.) It was clear sailing after that — I continued to play well and finished the front nine in an hour. But I caught up to a backlog of golfers on hole #11. So I took out that second ball and played two balls on holes 10, 11, and 12. And for good measure and I did that loop twice. By the time I got to the 14th hole it was 4:30, time to return the golf cart and call it a day. Besides, my back, which I’d strained a bit on Sunday, was starting to stiffen up and I needed to rest up so I can play again on Saturday. Not a bad afternoon, though. 

When I got home there my phone twanged that there was a new photo from Max in our shared photo album. I had a nice FaceTime visit with Max and Alex. He is reading and doing crafts and playing piano and always happy — and happy to FaceTime with me. The joy of my life. I had a fine supper of pasta with mushroom sauce and some very spicy meatballs — and looked over the playbill at the cinema. I drove down to the theatre and watched “Tea with the Dames”, a ‘documentary’ featuring 4 old English actresses sitting around and talking. Meh, maybe that is a little TOO quiet for me — I didn’t really know many of films they referenced and there were absolutely no car chases and nothing got blown up and not even a hint of a love scene. But I stayed awake right till the end. Back at home I made myself a nice drink and watched the CBC National News. I even managed to catch the opening monologue of Kimmel and Colbert, which starts at 11:34 here. But I’m quite sure that by 11:44 I was in dreamland.

and the walking man walks…

After lunch I decided to ‘warm up’ and go for a long walk. I headed down to El Paseo, the famous high-end shopping street here in Palm Desert. I was just about to cross Hwy 111, a busy 6-lane road just a block before El Paseo, when I saw a car lying upside-down just up the road. The driver had crawled out of the rear door and was sitting, basically unharmed, on the curb beside the car. He had a tiny scratch on his arm. He said he’d lost control of the car when the front tire went flat. That seemed a bit hard to believe — the speed limit is 45 as the road is right in the middle of town.

I walked up and down El Paseo for a while. There are blocks of boutiques, high-end retailers, and fancy restaurants. All the major luxury brands — Burberry, Escada, Grayse, Gucci, Ralph Lauren — expensive clothing, jewellery, art and antiques. Both sides of the road are lined with parked Jaguars and Porsches. The only shop I actually entered was the Apple Store. I had to check out the new MacBook Airs. One of these days…

It’s interesting that unlike clothes and cars, in the world of phones, the rich and the plebeians all get the same deal. I’m always amazed at how Apple, with only about 10 different products to offer, builds big beautiful stylish stores, where customers are ENCOURAGED to touch the merchandise, and ongoing help from the techies is free long after the warranty is off the product. And no matter if you buy the entry level phone or the latest top-of-the-line phone or ipad or computer, everyone gets the same operating system, exactly the same user experience.

I walked and walked until I was hot and tired. I made my way to the Westfield Mall. I found a couple of pairs of golf shorts for half price at Macys. Then I went to my new favorite hangout, the movie theatre, and asked what movie was playing next. I bought a ticket and went in to watch Robert Redford’s swan song, “The Old Man & The Gun”. I hadn’t read or seen anything about the movie so was pleasantly surprised. First of all, it had quite a few big names starring in it — Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, and TOM WAITS! A very good way to rest my legs and cool off from an afternoon of walking.

I walked home in the dark. I thought I might go grocery shopping, but when I got home and looked at what I had on hand I decided to stay home — mac & cheese and leftover meatballs. I listened to the new Mark Knopfler and Mumford & Sons albums and worked on my web project until I got tired of that. I watched the CBC News and went to bed. Gotta golf game tomorrow morning and I need to be at my best!

Firecliff, round 2

The alarm woke me up at 6:00. I got up and made coffee and eggs and toast. Saturday, minus the bacon. I caught up on the latest news. I got myself dressed for a day at the golf course. My tee time today was for 8:50, so I wanted to be at the course by 8:30. And I was. I met Darrel and Ken. I went in to pay. Paul came driving up in his cart and I loaded my clubs next to his. And off we were.

Firecliff is truly a beautiful golf course. Sure, there are be sand traps all over the place, especially at strategic locations near where a tee shot may end up, and certainly around most of the greens. But last week when I golfed here I don’t think I was in more than one bunker. Well, not so today. I managed to find the bunkers early and regularly.

Ken and Paul are good golfers. Paul hits a long fade on every tee shot, and he parred his share of holes today. It was good to visit as we rode along the fairways. After 9 holes my score was 5 strokes poorer than last week (3 sevens!) — an even 50.

I did a bit better on the back nine — one 8 and NO sevens. Final score was 96. A lovely day and a fun morning.

Darrel and Ken had lunch at the course, and Paul and I joined them for a beer. After lunch Paul went home and I went to Darrel’s to pick up Reg’s golf clubs (I’ll be taking them home at the end of the month) and had another beer up in the condo with Darrel and Ken.

I headed home around 2pm. I stopped at Albertsons (grocery store) to get some of the items that are on my list. When I got home I was starving. I roasted a couple of hotdogs on the BBQ and wolfed down 2 hotdogs. Then I sat down in the living room and watched a couple of episodes of Shark Tank and wrote my blog post.

I slouched in my chair for the rest of the evening, working on my web project and watching SNL.

Talk shows, the street fair, some football, and a dinner party.

My Sunday Morning talk shows started at 7:00am local time, so I got out of bed before that and made my cup of coffee.  I sort of missed my PVR — and had to flick between channels during commercials just so I could get a taste of what each of the networks had to say. In between I sorted my laundry and did two loads of that. 

I got on my bike and cycled down to the street fair, just down the road from my place, at College of the Desert parking lot. It reminds me of the Mesa Market in Phoenix. It’s open every Saturday and Sunday and then everything gets packed up so that students can park their cars there during the week. I’d been there before, six years ago when we spent a winter here. I think nothing has changed. The same booths that were set up then are still there. They have live music and a wide variety of gadgets and tools and clothing and ‘art’ and jewellery. It’s open from early morning until 2pm, but today as I was wandering around at noon some of the shops were already starting to pack up their displays. Well, I wasn’t really shopping for anything anyway.

When I got back to my place I was hungry and made myself a sandwich. There were two CFL games on TV today — the second one was a playoff game between Calgary and the Bombers. I worked on one of my crosswords and switched back and forth between football and golf on TV. I wasn’t really following any of the games. I don’t remember who won the first CFL game, and it sure looked like the Bombers would lose in the fourth quarter of the second game (I just checked — and yes, the Bombers lost) when I finally turned off the TV to get ready to go out.

I was invited to Darrel and Cari’s for 5:00. I left home at 4:30 on my bike. Shorts, a sweater, and a light jacket. It was already cooling off and it would be a colder ride home. I made a pitstop at Albertsons to pick up a bottle of wine. I put it in my backpack and cycled on the big wide sidewalks up to their place at Desert Willow. It was almost dark by the time I got there just after 5pm but I was nice and warm from pedalling.

Ken and Brenda are staying at the Penners until this coming Thursday. The five of us sat on the outdoor veranda under the heater and caught up on the day’s adventures. Ken and Darrel are off to play golf at The Palms tomorrow. They had visited the big PGA store today — it’s not far from my place and it sounds like it’s worth a visit. Supper was served — big steak kebobs and potatoes and asparagus. It was excellent. The evening was excellent. It was very kind of Darrel and Cari to invite me over again and I enjoyed meeting Ken and Brenda. 

I cycled home a little after 9pm. Like the residential developments in Phoenix, there are very few street lights here, so it’s REALLY dark at night. I felt completely safe riding the empty sidewalks the four miles back to my place, although I had to slow down and almost stop regularly. The sidewalks are zigzaggy and I had to be careful not to ride into a big palm tree whenever I was blinded by the headlights of oncoming traffic. The friendly girl who often monitors the entrance into my country club already knows me and quickly opened the gate for me. 

At home I cleaned up the dishes I’d left in the sink. I even played my guitar for a bit. I was going to write my journal but exactly around that time I suddenly got very tired and headed off to bed. I’d leave the writing of this until tomorrow morning.


Matinee Movie, Monday Night Football, & Monica Lewinsky

Made my usual breakfast — an aeropress coffee, raisin bran with yogurt and raspberries and blueberries and half a banana — and FaceTimed with my parents for a bit. I was playing my guitar and watching one of the morning shows on TV. They were talking about the new interviews that Monica Lewinsky was doing for a special 6-part A&E series that started last night. Ah, so THAT’S what I watched last night! I didn’t know it was a new series, but as I was flipping through the 1100 channels that I get on my TV, I ended up watching this 2-hour special about the Clinton years. And so I saw those interviews with ‘that woman, Miss Lewinsky’. I checked the online TV guide to find out more, and discovered that for the next 2 evenings there will be 2-hour continuations of the series. I found the A&E channel again and noted it for tonight.

It is cool in the morning, and probably even a bit cooler inside than out. At least from the way the  golfers outside my window are dressed, I’m sitting here with jeans on and they are in shorts. So I guess the thing to do is to get outside and go for a walk or a bike ride or a game of golf every morning. I put my walking sandals on and went for another long walk. I cut through the big country club to the west of ours, waiting until a car pulled up and the gate opened so I could walk through behind the car. I ended up at ‘The River’ mall in Rancho Mirage. I wandered around there for a while, before going into the theatre there to see another movie — “Bohemian Rhapsody”. A nice theatre. An okay movie. It’s exactly “my era” as far as the story and the music goes, and I knew all the songs. But I don’t think I have a single Queen record in my collection — I was never a fan. But it was an enjoyable way to pass the time and rest my feet for an hour and a half.

Back at home, it was mid-afternoon by the time I had my sandwich. I worked on my web project for a while, and then had a little afternoon nap. I needed milk to make my pasta for supper so I drove down to Albertsons for that. Although I’ve more-or-less sworn off of football, I’m guilty of a bit of backsliding lately. And tonight’s Monday Night Football matchup between the two top teams in the NFL should be interesting. So I had the game on.

pasta-and-asparagusI’m 2 hours ahead of the 7pm start time for Monday Night Football at home, so I was busy making supper during much of the first half and wasn’t really paying attention to the game. I was actually quite busy with supper today — I had a lot of things going on at the same time and it all needed to come together at about the same time. So I was baking some Sicilian meatballs while I was cooking the pasta, and about halfway through that I got a panful of asparagus and mushrooms sizzling on another element on the oven. And timers on my phone and the microwave were ringing and beeping at allotted times to remind me to flip this and add that. And the fan on the microwave was much better at roaring loudly and drowning out the game on TV than it was at redirecting all the steam from my pots and pans. But in the end it all worked out pretty good, and I sat down at my table to another fine “home-cooked” meal.

When I retired to the living room I realized I’d forgotten the channel that the Monica Lewinsky show was on. So I had to click-click-click to find it, and when I did they were playing a repeat of yesterday’s program as a run-up to today’s episode, which was starting at 9pm. I ended up flipping back and forth between that and the football game. The game ended up being everything that the buildup to it had promised and the lead went back and forth right until the end. In the end, the Rams won (I was cheering for the Chiefs — what else is new?) with a final score of about 50 points for each team, a record for MNF. And the game ended at about ten to nine, so I was all set for tonight’s episode of A&E’s series. Which I watched right to the end! I guess that afternoon nap turned out to be just the thing — I had no trouble staying up until the show ended at eleven. 

When it was over I washed the dishes and went to bed.

Discount Day at The River

So not only does my favourite movie theatre have “Tristone Tuesdays”, when all movies are only $5.75, but now I see that the theatre at The River ALSO has a discount today. So I thought I’d go to see several movies today. But that’s not exactly how things turned out.

I did a couple of New York Times crosswords first thing in the morning. Then I got down to work — my web project had stalled out a bit, so I thought today I wanted to sit down and see if I couldn’t figure out a solution. I took a break for lunch, but went right back to work after that. The list of showtimes had a few options at around one o’clock — but I worked right through that and well into the afternoon.

Finally, at around 4:00pm, I pulled myself away from my computer and drove down to the mall at The River. I guess a lot of folks come to the mall for happy hour and supper — the parking lot was full when I showed up. So I circled around for a while and eventually found a spot. I got to the theatre and bought a ticket for the movie “Widows” — and had to select my seat — and there were only about 8 seats left. I took the one at the end of the last row. All seats are big comfortable recliners, so that was okay. And even though I was a little ‘late’, I still sat through at least 5 previews before the movie began.

There are still a number of movies I want to see, and certainly “Widows” wasn’t really at the top of that list. But the previews I’d seen and the reviews I’d read made it out to be a crime thriller with a few ‘twists’ in it. The director is Steve McQueen, who directed last year’s big Oscar movie, “Get Out”. Well, “Get Out” wasn’t a very good movie in my opinion, and today’s movie wasn’t really very good either.

I left the theatre, found my van, and drove down Bob Hope Drive to the Total Wine store. I bought some Pilsner Urquell and headed back home. It was after 7pm. I made supper (leftovers from yesterday plus a very nice salad) and then sat down to watch the last two episodes of “The Clinton Affair”. And as disappointing as the movie today was, the A&E special was SO good. I’m not sure why — the story is a sad one, and the way it all worked out is really a bit sad too. And there isn’t really any surprise in any of that — I was all into the news in the late 90’s when this actually happened. And maybe that’s why I enjoyed the series so much — it takes me back to ‘the good old days’. And with 20/20 hindsight, and lots of interviews with the people involved, tonight’s TV was probably the highlight of my day.

An afternoon of golf

After another leisurely morning, I had an early lunch and drove back to the Cathedral Canyon Golf Club. I booked another cheap round on GolfNow and once again had the course to myself. The weather was perfect. The course is actually in pretty good shape. And although lately (so far) my driver is hitting mostly straight shots, I still feel better hitting the ball hard when there aren’t houses in play on either side of the fairway. This course has lots of big trees, and there is water in play on quite a few holes. Because of the distance from some of the greens to the next tee, you pretty much have to take a cart — fairways are spread out in the community and often the cart path takes you along the side of the street to get from hole to hole. 

I started the day determined not to swing too hard — my ribs are still sore from a week and a half ago. The problem with that strategy was that when you don’t swing as hard as you can, the ball goes farther! And it feels great to hit the ball farther. So at the next tee you forget all about that, and you swing extra hard because you think, my goodness, I can sure hit the ball a long way! And the ball doesn’t go nearly as far (or as straight) and you end up an even sorer back. Golf is a great game for ‘slow learners’ like me.

I played two balls and kept score for each ball. I had a lot of fun. And I ended up with decent scores, more balls than I started with (that’s the upside of hitting balls into the water — when you start fishing for balls you end up with more than just the one you plunked into the pond), a sore back, and feeling tired but happy. It’s what I came here for. And I got some photos — even a couple of me when one of the maintenance guys obliged me and didn’t “cut off my feet” in the photo.

I stopped at Albertsons on the way home and picked up some fried chicken and potato wedges to go with my fried asparagus and mushrooms. Tomorrow’s a big day here — American Thanksgiving. The checkout lady wishes me a “Happy Turkey Day”. 

I FaceTimed with Max and Alex after dinner. Then I drove over to the movie theatre to see another movie. Tonight I saw a Swedish film (with subtitles) which got great reviews and has already won lots of international awards. The movie was called Gräns, which translates to ‘Border’. In fact, the best part of seeing the movie was listening to the dialogue in Swedish, and reading the English subtitles. It seemed to me that Swedish has much in common with German. (Gräns, when you say it, sounds like “Grenze”, which is the German word for border.) Anyway, the movie was quite bizarre — it turns out the main characters are actually TROLLS! Entertaining, if not exactly life-altering. I enjoyed trying to figure out the translations while I munched on a little bag of almonds I’d snuck into the theatre. 

Got home and watched a bit of TV. The holiday tomorrow means that lots of people don’t have to go to work (no different than any other day for us retired folks) and all the stores are open (no different than any other day here as well), and there will be football on TV and turkey on the dinner table (I’ll see what I can do). The TV is airing a constant barrage of ‘Black Friday’ ads — almost makes me nostalgic for those horrible midterm election ads that polluted and poisoned American television for the past 2 months! Okay, let’s see what Jimmy Kimmel has on his mind tonight…

Thanksgiving, American style

I stayed ‘home’ all day today. Not even a walk or a bike ride. The NFL games on TV started mid-morning and continued all day. I didn’t really pay too much attention — I was either doing a crossword or working on my computer. I got stuck in a little programming loop that I still haven’t figured out. I SHOULD have taken a break and gone for a walk and it probably would have “solved itself” by the time I returned. But I didn’t.

No photo from me today, but how about a picture of this fine young gentleman!

I spent a bit of time checking out some great family photos that Tim and Alex’s friend took of them for their annual Christmas card. I had some ‘Thanksgiving” turkey in my sandwich for lunch.

By 5 o’clock I was tired of sitting at my computer and I “made” some chili (a big badge on the can proclaimed that it contained beans! DUH!) and a baked sausage for my supper. I brought an external hard drive along on this trip; it’s got five or six seasons of “The Wire” on it. I’ve always meant to watch it but never taken the time. So tonight I hooked that up to the TV and started on the first 3 episodes. The opening theme music is a good old Tom Waits song — so it had that going for it. Unfortunately, after a long hard day of doing nothing, I was too tired to stay awake long enough to watch Colbert and Kimmel. Oh well, tomorrow’s another day!

Bump and Grind

I had a slow morning again. The sun isn’t up until after 6 in the morning and it’s hard to get up when it’s dark (and cold). I made my coffee and sat down to read the news. When I’d finished my coffee I had a bowl of cereal and yogurt. I sat at my computer and tried to figure out my programming problem — I know I’ll eventually get this, but so far I’m striking out. 

After lunch I went into town. I wanted to see if I could get a new power cable for my computer because my cable has a broken connection. I thought they might have something at the big Apple store on El Paseo. Today was not the best day to visit the shops — it’s Black Friday and the sidewalks were filled with shoppers. And not a parking spot to be found. I circled around and tried a couple of the parking lots. I finally got a the van parked and went to the store. Not a lot of help there — apparently my computer is much too old and the cable I need would have to be special ordered — for $79 US! Yikes. I might have to buy a roll of electrical tape.

I left downtown and drove to the little street behind the Target store. There were quite a few vehicles parked on the side of the street. I did the same. I switched from sandals to my running shoes. A pathway led past a big track where people were driving their remote-controlled cars over moguls. A sign at the side of the path indicated that this was the trailhead for the ‘Bump and Grind’ trail. I started up the trail.

The Bump and Grind trail is a 4-mile loop. I took the left path going up. The temperature was 21 degrees and the trail was on the east side of the mountain, so the entire walk was on the shaded side of the hill. Comfortable. Quite a few other hikers going either way. It took about half an hour to reach the top. There is a flat fenced-off area at the top, with a small plant in the middle of it, and signs indicating that you are at the top and asking to please respect the surroundings and stay only on the marked trail.

It took more than half an hour to come down on the second half of the loop — it is longer and quite a bit more gradual as it winds its way down. Along the way there is a great view of another gorgeous golf course — this one is the Porcupine Creek Golf Club. And once again, just to make a mockery of the hike, a guy on a bicycle passes me on his way up the trail!

I got back to the van. Switched shoes again. I decided to check out the Target store to see if I could get a Black Friday deal on some Lego. I did. Across the street from Target was a grocery store where I picked up a few things.

Back at the house I barbecued a couple of hotdogs and fancied them up a bit with bacon and cheese. I sat down and watched the news on TV. I ended up staying up late to watch a two-part special about Aaron Hernandez, the NFL player who was charged with a couple of murders. I must have got my second wind because I had no trouble staying awake until one o’clock.


I made a 3-egg omelet with cheese and bacon for my Saturday breakfast. I listened to Van Morrison all day while I worked on my computer.

By mid-afternoon it was time to take a break. I went out for a walk. I ended up at The River mall. Lots of people out — it is the Thanksgiving long weekend and a that has brought a lot of visitors to town. I think a lot of families come to be with their parents and grandparents who have retired to the Palm Springs area. So the restaurants are booked, the golf courses are busy, the streets are filled with shoppers. I went to the theatre, hoping to see the new movie “Green Book” but it was sold out! And the evening showtimes were all sold out except for the front row. What about “Boy Erased”? All sold out, too. Oh, are you a single? In that case we have one seat for the next showing. I took it. I’d seen the previews for the movie all week, and although I more-or-less knew the story from watching the previews, I very much enjoyed the film. 

It was dark when I left the theatre. I wandered around the outdoor mall, watching people and listening to a couple of buskers. The Ben and Jerry’s was doing a brisk business. By now my big omelet was but a distant memory and I was hungry — but not just for a little cup of fancy ice cream. I walked back home, going through the Rancho Las Palmas Country Club. Like most retirement communities in the sun belt, there are very few street lights in this development. But tonight there was plenty of light to show me the way through. The golf course that criss-crosses the one-mile road through the private club was lit up by a giant full moon that was rising ahead of me. Stunning. I actually turned off the flash on my phone and tried to take a few photos — none of which come close to what it actually looked and felt like.

The gates into my country club are now fully decked out in Christmas decorations and lights. The friendly girl at the main gate knows me by now. It’s not quite another mile from the entrance to my house. A lovely walk. The moon was now shining down on the palm trees around the pond on my golf course. It reminded me of the chalk talks that Henry Fehr used to do in church around this time of year — Bethlehem, with exotic black silhouettes of palm trees and a moon shining overhead. If only they had the Northern Lights here — that would be almost like the black light effects that were the grand finale of the chalk talks.

When I got home I opened another of my boxes of ‘easy-to-make’ pasta. I whipped up quite the impressive meal and ate both of the 2 portions of pasta that the box claimed were in there. After dinner I plunked myself down back in front of the TV and watched a series about the 1974 Patty Hearst case on CNN. Here I am again, living in the past! I know how this thing ends — I actually followed this story when it was happening. Hey, for as much as I ridicule the old folks around me, I’m probably exactly where I belong!