I just committed unnecessary travel during Covid. Interesting that the word “Covid” has become a noun in itself—one doesn’t need to add “era” or “pandemic” to it any more. It’s Covid and everyone knows what that means. An adjective or a noun, or even a verb. I’ll Covid you if you don’t watch out.
Getting on an airplane during Covid restrictions is no less or more difficult than it ever was. I had to fuss greatly with Delta, who claimed on their website that they wouldn’t open up to full capacity until May 1st. But when we all got to the airport, waiting to board, in spite of the airplane seating chart that indicated X’d out seats on every row except for couples and families, they made the rather sly announcement that one may be seated next to a stranger because of increasing ticket demand.
On my way to LAX in a smaller jet, two to a seat, to my surprise a young lady sat next to me.
From what I could see, no one else had to share a seat unless they were traveling together. So, when they did it to me again on one of my home flights, placing me next to another stranger, who was just as surprised as I was, I became the demanding old lady and insisted on my own seat. Luckily I didn’t delay the flight as the gate managers called a gentleman no-show who didn’t answer his phone and I got his seat because departure was imminent. They were all very nice about it. God-given patience. Air travel is fucked-up enough without having to deal with a deadly virus vs. airline corporation greed.
One benefit of aging has been that I have grown some balls.
Yes, I, and a close friend of mine, another pushy old lady, debarked the Pacific Northwest for Palm Springs, California.
Palm Springs, although thought to be the booze-soaked playground of midcentury VIPs such as Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford, is actually a pretty nice little town. Expensive, yes. Food, accommodation and shopping all suck dry the tourist’s travel nest egg. The Village, as it likes to think of itself in a kind of sneakily privileged way, is trying to recover from Covid like the rest of us, and prices had gone up. One of our Uber/Lyft drivers—most of them drive for both—told us that during last summer, summer being the off-season for Palm Springs, entire families from the country’s northeast rented AirBnB’s for three or more months, working from home, escaping the suffocation of sheltering in place. (Instead they were sweltering in place during 110 degree summer days.) Palm Springs welcomes with open arms. The Ace, a hotel catering to young hipster wannabes, was just fine to host a super-spreader pool party. I was at the hotel to pick up a map to a city-wide art installation called Desert X, and kept my distance from the clouds of virus hovering over the water.
The Tropicale, a venerable gay hangout with a smashingly fun happy hour during better times, was recapitulating the happy hour vibe in the bar. The CDC recommends that while dining, you remove you mask, take a bite or a sip, then put your mask back on. Nope. No one did that, not even my buddy and me. The Tropicale restaurant had spaced out the tables, but every booth was filled and you cannot even pretend to measure six feet between diners in booths. Maybe the management thought vinyl upholstery could repel SARS-CoV-2.
In Indian Canyons, a preserve managed by the Agua Caliente tribe, and a very popular trail along an oasis crowded with fan palms, people hiked the trails mostly maskless. My buddy and I pulled our masks over our faces whenever we met someone on the trail, and some folks were diligent about it, too. At Whitewater Preserve, a conservancy-maintained canyon along the Whitewater River, hikers were far more careful about masking. That’s the difference between accessibility. The Preserve is distant from Palm Springs, a perilous, dusty, windy drive along I-10, when the entrance to Indian Canyon is within Palm Springs city limits. One can, if preferred, access the Pacific Crest Trail from Whitewater Preserve. We demurred.
With clear blue skies, temps in the low 90’s, and our hotel pools, the trip was resurrecting, though when my plane landed in Portland, Oregon, it was 74 degrees. The desert, I fear, is marching northward. The Willamette valley is already turning into northern California and it’s not because Californians are moving here.
We’re already planning our next trip back to Palm Springs. One will have to get used to the fact that we won’t achieve the “Normal?” for a very long time, despite Jim Jordan’s demands that Tony Fauci map it out for him.