Point of View: Tumbleweed’s Passe

There is nothing much left of the desert now

The animals and birds at the Living Desert Zoo/Gardens in Palm Desert were not all that lively the day we went to see them. Aside from the birds, who drew our greatest sympathy, they didn’t appear to be cramped, they had some room, though you wondered if they wouldn’t be happier freed from us.

I tried, without success, to get the laughing kookaburra to laugh, reciting catchy Rodney Dangerfield jokes: “I was so ugly when I was born that the doctor slapped my mother!”

“I’m telling you, ugly, I was ugly. My mother used to feed me with a slingshot.” I was constricted, though he just sat there on his perch, apparently unamused.

I fantasized about Mary freeing the vultures, until I read that sometimes they made away with small children. That gave me pause inasmuch as we were visiting two of them, ages 2 and 1 — the 1-year-old, Lucy, being an Aquarius like me. Mary is not a great believer in astrology, by the way, especially since I told her that we were “givers.” Make that “a giving taker,” then, in my case. 

We celebrated Lucy’s birthday a day early, on Super Bowl Sunday, an occasion made all the more merry by the fact that the Eagles won.

We wanted to free the bald eagle and the golden eagle they had at the Living Desert Zoo/Gardens too — all the birds, in fact, though it is worth the visit to see the native desert plants if nothing else.

There is nothing much left of the desert now. Mary said she wished she could have shown it to me in the 1970s, when she lived there, a single mother in Morongo, with infant twins, one of whom is the mother of the aforementioned 1-year-old, who has that dimpled wide-eyed look Johnna herself once had. Instead of tumbleweed, it’s house house house now, and malls, many, many, many of them. 

It seems as if millions live there. Johnna said she wasn’t sure. A million maybe in high season, in all the desert cities ringed by mountains, some with snow on top — Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Bermuda Dunes, and La Quinta among them. 

She and her husband, Wally, and the children live within a gated community in Bermuda Dunes, though it’s not as easy to get into as the Living Desert Zoo/Gardens. 

I’ve railed against gated communities in the past, though I see her point: Its relative isolation and the constantly patrolling security service assures her pretty much that the kids will be safe when they are playing and riding bikes.

Even at that they’re never far from the madding crowd. The traffic’s horrendous, The Times is scarce, and it was hot for this time of year, in the high 80s and low 90s, not auguring well for the summer, when, as we do in the winter, the natives hunker down. But the margaritas they were good.