I could be tempted to integrate the lyrics from U2's "The Joshua Tree" into the culinary chronicle of my recent four-day holiday in Yucca Valley, where my pal Eileen is renting a house for the month. But I don't feel cliched, ungrateful or angry enough to rail that "in the howling wind comes a stinging rain, see it driving nails into souls on the tree of pain, from the firefly, a red orange glow, see the face of fear running scared in the valley below." We simply had too much fun, even as asphalt-gray clouds loomed above the parched earth, threatening to damp our dark hair.
At sunset, the mix of colors in the sky reminded me of the deadly gaseous atmosphere on Mars.
On my first night, I draped myself in my black cape and explored Pioneertown in the dark with Eileen and Colin, who was visiting from the Big Apple. My crummy cell phone camera couldn't take any good photos of our roast chicken, barbecued baby back ribs and beef coated in a spicy dry rub. But I managed to snap a picture of the postcard advertising our restaurant, Pappy & Harriet's. So what if our waitress messed up our order and gave us mashed potatoes instead of Southwestern red rice. Pappy & Harriet's offers Stella Artois on tap in the middle of the desert. You can't beat that!
This is one of the various nooks at Eileen's house where we could kick it, smoke it and rock it.
I know taste is subjective and I try not to be judgmental. But I couldn't quite comprehend the owner's predilection to decorate his mustard green stucco home with 3-D art showcasing at least three different media, whether it be oil paint, metal inlay or wood.
After a night of soaking in a hot tub, cooling off in a pool, getting high and swinging in a hammock, Eileen, Colin and I grabbed lunch at Crossroads Cafe, which is located near the Western entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. Crossroads Cafe reminds me of an artsy-fartsy joint in a rural college town that is the only place where you can get vegetarian food and rub elbows with dudes who wear black plastic-framed glasses and talk to girls who don't use styling product in their hair and smell like patchouli. I ordered the BLT with white bean soup.
Colin opted to return to the house after lunch to work on his screenplay. Eileen and I headed to Desert Springs, which is somewhere between Joshua Tree and Palm Springs, to soak in the naturally hot water and get a massage. This is me modeling the cool Selima Optique sunglasses I scored at the Barneys New York outlet in Cabazon, Calif.
In Palm Springs, Eileen and I lived the lush life, figuratively and literally. In the back of the Parker hotel, we clinked our martini and margarita glasses as we lounged on marble benches that reminded me of "Alice in Wonderland."
Eileen noted that it's hard to put a handle on Palm Springs because so much of the city is hidden behind thick, high fences. This is one of the Parker's rooms facing the back courtyard.
We snacked on salmon roasted on a wood plank with a Balsamic vinegar reduction.
Stoli martini. Dirty. With olives.
Alone in the desert, Eileen and I feasted on leftovers from Pappy & Harriet's and a bottle of Benziger syrah that I brought from Los Angeles. Owned by the same family for more than 20 years in Sonoma Valley, Benziger is my favorite winery on this side of the Atlantic.
Lest you thought that I was abandoning my francophilia by pledging allegiance to a California winery a la Benziger, I packed my crepe pan from Los Angeles and made crepes for Eileen for breakfast. I would have eaten more but I read the back of the Nutella jar and discovered that each tablespoon has 100 calories and 5 grams of fat.
Solange, from Marina Del Rey, Calif., joined us on Saturday and we grabbed lunch at Pioneertown Bowl, which is across a sandy parking lot from Pappy & Harriet's.
You know you're far from civilization when your drink costs more than your food. My Corona put me back $4.50 while the grilled cheese sandwich and French fries cost $3. To think that Corona is the PBR of Mexico!
Built decades ago as an entertainment center for the folks who were filming cowboy movies in town, Pioneertown Bowl still has functioning lanes. This senior bowler had silver earrings in his left lobe. He kissed his girl for good luck.
We burned off the calories on a hike in Joshua Tree National Park. Solange noticed how the rock climbing dudes were cute. I was too pragmatic and asked Eileen to turn around and abandon the detour she was leading into the heart of the park. We had about 30 minutes before sunset and I didn't want to kill a roadrunner or Pinyon quail for dinner or yell for the cute rock climbers to save us.
Solange made us banana pancakes and turkey bacon for breakfast.
There are a lot of cute antique shops and vintage stores in Yucca Valley. I bought this one chiffon blouse in a pink swirly pattern that my friend Emili said reminded her of Jefferson Starship. I think the shirt was homemade, because the snaps on the sheer blouson sleeves had primitive pink stitching. The round-neck style was so neat that I wore it on Monday for my interview with Justin Timberlake. But I decided not to buy this coat, which reminded me of a hatchet job on Oscar the Grouch. Eileen looks great modeling it, however.
I look as if I was gobbled alive by a monster from Joshua Tree.