Last night I got the call.
“Richard, I need you to go to Indio tomorrow.”
“Okay,” I said, trying my best to convey a positive attitude.
“It’s about 75 miles from the hotel, and about 100 miles from the airport.”
“Okay,” I repeated, still trying to be positive. And I think I was succeeding.
“It’s in the middle of the desert.”
“That’s fine,” I said, a variation on “Okay”. And I was still trying to sound positive. And I’m pretty sure I was doing a pretty good job of it.
“Now, I realize that this probably isn’t what you want to do, but we really need the help.”
I was stumped. Apparently I wasn’t sounding too positive on the phone after all. But at least the manager didn’t sound mad at me as she gave me directions to the site in Indio.
And so this morning, I found myself driving from Riverside, over the hills, and into the Palm Desert. It was a fine way to spend the morning. There were plenty of interesting sites to occupy my mind as I drove.
When I got there, it was about 9:30 in the morning, and it was already 75 degrees out. It was only going to get hotter.
But it’s the desert, right? So I was prepared, at least mentally, for the heat; and at least, as they say, it was dry heat so that was okay.
What I wasn’t mentally prepared for was the sign proclaiming that a long stretch of I-10 that I was driving on was the Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway.
To which I said, “Huh?”
Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway?
Honestly, it was one of the things that just surprised me. I pondered it while driving along the highway: what had Sonny Bono done to deserve having a highway named after him? I know that he was mayor of Palm Springs for awhile, but there are plenty of people who were mayor of that town who never had a freeway or highway named after them. He did produce a lot of banal music in the 70’s. And I suppose he was married to Cher for awhile, which probably is enough to warrant the memorial in and of itself.
As I drove, I kept an eye out for killer trees.
I pondered this, and then noticed that there were windmills along the highway. Hundreds of them. Tall, slender white structures, spinning erratically in the strong wind. They were like a flock of some sort of strange bird, flapping their wings in a strange way and trying desperately to take off. I asked some of the mollusks I was training about the windmills, and I learned that the windmills are actually attached to generators, and the power they generate is actually sold to Northern California. I thanked the Southern California mollusks on behalf of Northern California because it seemed like the polite thing to do.
I have one more week here in Riverside County. I’ve learned a number of interesting things. During a conversation with a law enforcement officer today, for example, I found out that it’s a misdemeanor in Riverside County to kiss another person without first rinsing your mouth out with carbonated rosewater. Unfortunately, carbonated rosewater hasn’t been manufactured in Riverside County since the 1920’s. So everyone who has been kissing in Riverside County since the 1920’s has been guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a $2.00 fine.
A whimsical statute, I think, fit for a day full of whimsy. Really, what says whimsical more than windmills along the Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway?