Jake started shouting and pointing, “Hey, Dad! look!”
Jeff got up and went to Jake. I didn’t look up from my book. I imagined he found minnows or a crab or something.
Then Jeff started hollering, “Miranda! Look up!”
I was nursing an umbrella drink with one shot of vodka and two drinks worth of mixer. The concoction, lemon and strawberry and frozen, was the perfect beach drink for the perfect beach day. We were alone on the beach other than some surf fishers off in the distance, their poles set up in a row with them sitting in camp chairs around a cooler. Occasionally their laughter would ring loud enough that we could hear them. They were having a fine time.
Jeff was beside me and the Designated Parent for the day. We took turns. Our son Jake was playing in the shallow surf, his floaties bright orange against the blue water and blue sky and his blue swimming trunks. Jake’s blue eyes had been wide with excitement since we arrived. I vowed to make his first trip to the beach memorable and was succeeding. Each night he fell asleep at the dinner table and we carried him to the second bedroom of our rented condo. He would sleep all night and wake me before dawn. He with a glass of milk and I with my coffee would sit on the balcony and watch the sun come up. We were making memories that I hoped would sustain him his whole life. Shared, quality time in paradise.
“I closed my book and looked up.”
“Oh!” I rubbed my eyes.
I hadn’t even had a full shot of vodka yet and yet, there he was. Puff. In all of his majesty, scales gleaming iridescent purple, pink, blue, and green in the bright sun.
I was born in Twenty-nine Palms, California which is part of the Joshua Tree National Forest.
Robert Plant wrote a song titled 29 Palms.
I feel the heat of your desert heart (Feel the heat of your desert heart) Leading me back down the road that leads back to you.
We left that part of California when I was very small. I have no memory of the place. We did drive through the Painted Desert on our way back from Hawaii, but it was night and didn’t leave much of an impression.
Thus, I hadn’t seen my birthplace since a year or so after my birth.
I had the opportunity nine years ago to go there and I did. I have a photo of me at what was basically the Visitors Center for Twenty-nine Palms. For some reason, they had a metal sculpture of Cinderella’s pumpkin coach.
I am not making this up.
I have a photo.
The Cinderella Coach was the highlight. Well, it tied with the small oasis.
Three Dog Night burst onto the scenes in the early ‘70s with the release of their single, Joy to the World – written by Hoyt Axton. It first appeared on their 4th studio album but was released as a single in February of 1971.
I remember it fondly. It took over the airwaves of Jacksonville, NC where I was living at the time. I was 11 almost 12 when the single came out. As the kids say now, it went viral.
What a glorious time of my life that was. My world had not yet gotten dark and heavy.
The song is infectious – from the opening of Jeremiah was a bullfrog “to the refrain of Joy to World all the boys and girls. it inspired surprise, joy, and dancing. You just couldn’t help yourself.
My girlfriends and I were rocking out to the song in my living room one day when my mother came home from work. Mom, uncharacteristically, grabbed the tambourine we had – the one I don’t know why we had as none of us were musical – and began beating it against her thigh and dancing around the living room. I had monkey pod wooden fruit – a banana and a pear, I think – that I was banging together in rhythm to the song and we danced. We were all singling loudly and probably offkey. I can’t remember who all “we” were, but I had a group of friends and I think we were all represented that day.
I play a wicked mean blues air guitar. Usually after one drink too many. I almost always say upon such occasions, “I could do it if I just knew how.” And I could. I really could. I’m convinced of it. So convinced of it, Santa asked me what I wanted one year and I said, “A guitar.”
Santa brought me a whole kit. Case, stand, picks, tuners, Guitar for Dummies, and other assorted accessories.
I couldn’t tune the damn thing. Tried and tried. I have a good ear, but I can’t figure out how to get the strings to the tension required. I turn the little screws things this way and that to no avail. I use the electronic tuner. I don’t think I’m doing it right.
In desperation, I cleaned my house and invited a musician friend and his wife to dinner. Told him he not only had to sing for his supper, he had to tune my guitar.
He did. He declared it not bad for a cheapie.
After they left, I tried some chords. Damn it’s hard. My old hands may be too arthritic to learn new muscle movements.