June 29, 2009

I Vant to Be Alone

Oof, I'm in a grouchy mood today. Well, not outwardly grouchy with anyone -- more just inwardly grouchy with my own grouchy, cranky self. Grouchy at how, forty years into it here, my personality can still fill like a horsehair shirt, ill-fitting and irritating and not at all what I would have chosen, personally, out of the Great Outfitting Closet in the sky.

Always, it's such a back and forth drama: the need for friends, the desire for close friends, warring with my very deep-seated mistrust of people, of the prickly, snarky game that is the world of women's friendships. Also, let's face it -- I'm just not a people person by far. I'm an introvert, a writer and muser by nature, shy and yet deeply sarcastic and therefore an ace at leading people to conclude that I'm a stuck-up bitch. Perhaps I am.

Over the weekend, the neighbors directly behind us had a hell-raiser of a party. They have a pool, and a firepit, and these are mighty small lots in our housing tract, so we were privy to just about every noise and conversation out there. "Conversation" being a high-falutin' description for the shrieks, cussin' and roarin' we heard, during their drinking games and other Saturday night hijinks. Except for the fact that this noise went on well past midnight, I don't begrudge my neighbors their fun. In fact, I felt a bit jealous at their ability to cut loose and have such an uncomplicated good time.

I hold my drinks pretty well, so very rarely get truly "drunk." (Then again, I'm not often caught doing jello shots, which would help out.) When I do get a bit tipsy, I become either maudlin and nostalgic, or a bit er, amorous. Neither of these states really play well in a crowd.

Well, I'm a loner, baby, to paraphrase Beck. I just have a hard time embracing it, some days. I am not at all like my husband, who very cheerfully admits that he hates most people, and the whole concept of the human race, as a whole. No interior agonizing with that one.

In keeping with my loner state, I'm sharing some pictures taken out at the very lonely and desolate Salton Sea last July. We were out in Palm Springs celebrating our anniversary, and I suggested a long drive out to visit this huge, man-made body of water sitting out in the middle of an extremely arid, scorching landscape. I had been here years earlier, but forgot how truly barren and windswept this place can be. And yet beautiful, in its starkness and silence.
A couple of weeks ago, I read in one day Marisa Silver's acclaimed novel, The God of War, about a boy and his family living in a trailer community near the Salton Sea. A good book, and very evocative of its setting, especially the desert as it was in the mid-1970s, when it was even easier to fall through society's cracks. Here is the book's first paragraph:

Where I grew up, people kept their business to themselves. I lived in the desert, far enough east of the big cities of Southern California to render them meaningless to my daily life, closer to the border of Mexico than most people would have liked to admit. People did not so much choose to live in that parched frontier as they ended up there. It was a place generally ignored because it did not have much to offer, and so it was a place where you could be left alone. The desert's plants and animals thrived in seemingly impossible circumstances, against heat and drought and other odds. The same could have been said of its people, too.
If you are not from Southern California and have not visited its deserts, this place can feel and look very exotic and foreign indeed. Even for me, who is quite familiar with the desert communities around Palm Springs, driving through the small agricultural outpost towns such as Thermal felt very strange, as though I were in another country altogether. It's quite a place out there, 118 feet below sea level, and baking under the desert heat of frequent days over 110-degrees, and it doesn't get much cooler after the sun goes down.

No one else was there.

We walked along the shore for a good while before realizing the "sand" is in fact comprised of the crunched and tiny sun-bleached bones of millions of tilapia fish.

The Visitor's Center was open; we were the only guests.

Back in civilization, wind-tilted telephone poles alongside the train tracks.

We stopped at the Oasis Date Garden in Thermal, a date-packing plant and shop. The pen I bought in their gift shop is right here next to my keyboard.

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