April 23, 2004

The last time I was in southern California was in high school, on a rock climbing trip to Joshua Tree National Park. We spent the days scaling large boulders and the evenings eating oatmeal and playing Hearts. We met some rattlesnakes and perfected GORP and saw just about the prettiest moonrise I think Iíll ever see. At dusk Chris would take his French horn out into the scrub brush and we would sit atop rocky spires, listening to the brass notes bale over the cacti and the Joshua trees and the fine brown sand. In the mornings I would check first to see if a rattler had curled up beside me for warmth, and then I would stretch out and look to the east. By the end of the week my hands were torn up from the rocks and my calves were strong. I felt peaceful and sun burnt. I knew what it was like to live in my little rocky world.

Itís interesting how we become intimate with new surroundings after not too much time at all. At the end of our week in the California desert, I was accustomed to my life, accustomed to the elemental. I sleep there, behind that boulder. I eat here around this fire. I move this way, patiently, hold to hold, scaling a rock face. I was at home in that square mile, as foreign as it had been upon my arrival.

Itís crazy and daunting and wonderful to think of how many square miles I could potentially inhabit for a time.

Now I am in Palm Desert, which has both of these things. The palms rise above the rough sand, silhouetted in front of brown mountains that look like crumpled paper bags. They are dramatic and numerous and barren. The buildings are all stucco with pink tiled roofs, even the fast food places and shopping malls. The roads are wide and straight and bordered by palms, and the buildings are set away from each other. There is a feeling of space here, and heat, and sun, and stillness. It constantly amazes me how big this country is, how it encompasses so many different climates and landscapes.

We performed the show in the McCallum Theater, a really amazing venue of about 1200 seats rising above the stage in pink and twinkling balconies. We all had our own dressing rooms, and the green room was walled on one side by glass, opening out onto a sunny patio.

The house was filled with kids who clapped and chanted and cheered and yelled and laughed. Also in the audience were three friends, who drove all the way from LA to see the show with 1200 second graders. I love how this show brings me close to many people who I care about, all over the country.

Now I am in the green room, waiting for our ride to the airport. We flew in yesterday and we leave today. I didnít think weíd have any time for anything besides load-in and performances, but last night we had a few hours to eat and lounge in the outdoor Jacuzzi. We listened to music and talked about the mouse who recently had her own baby without fertilization from a male mouse. The others downed a few Coronas, and I stole bites from Samís tortilla. The moon rose, a thin smile over the mountains, and the sky turned a deep blue.

Tonight I will be back in my bed, in a very different city from this one. In my city, the trees are in bloom and the ground is green and sun skips in and out of billowy clouds all day long.