One Saturday night a couple years ago we were out in Palm Springs watching their Christmas Festival of Lights parade. Fire trucks and marching bands and agricultural machinery and prancing queens and everything bedecked in lights and fiber optic cables, as beautiful as it is absurd. The parade goes down Palm Canyon Drive and we’d booked a room on Indian Canyon Drive a block away. Two minute walk. It was chilly, not a cloud in the sky, a bone chilling desert winter’s night. A zillion glittery stars over head, and faint smudges of galaxies unimaginably far away, so far and so vast it’s better not to think of them at all. We didn’t.
We strolled along the route people-watching but a quarter mile up were stopped by a solid wall of drunks. Hundreds of them. The bars were clustered particularly thick on that stretch and must have disgorged their patrons simultaneously. They stood there as a dense mass, teetering one way and then the other, giggling, held up only by each other. They drunkenly pointed at the floats, at each other, at who knows what, and having one helluva good time. Merry Christmas indeed. The gaseous booze clouds they exhaled were a bit rough on the eyes, though. We gave up, turned round and wandered back a ways till we found a nice spot. The parade was endless and wonderful. The marching bands a little ragged but good. A lot of fire engines and moms and dads and darling kids aglow in eerie reds and greens. People cheered and waved. A car full of Republican women set off a rolling wave of boo’s and catcalls—you heard it coming up the route before you saw them, then it rolled over us, people booing and waving thumbs down and chanting Obama and then it rolled on past us up-route, following them from beginning to end. (And this was a year before the election). Big things came floating. An immense toy soldier. A Santa. Ornaments. A Tree. The Macy’s Parade is big in this part of California, apparently. The crews below held frantically to the ropes and the things wafted in the breeze. It was too much for one inflatable elf, who came slowly crashing to earth like the cutest little Hindenburg you ever saw. People scattered. Oh the humanity. A giant floating Christmas tree toppled not long after. The people holding the ropes looked humiliated as the big deflated thing came to rest on their heads. No idea what they did to get it aloft again. Maybe they didn’t. Just carried it along as it deflated and shrank. Next year, maybe, they’ll have a little more helium. On came another band, and another. (Aren’t those cheerleaders cold?) Finally came the world’s largest illuminated agricultural vehicle, dancing to Bob Seger, an impressive sight, and then, anti-climactically, ‘twas Santa. End of parade. Out came the guys with the brooms. Horses, ya know….
I wouldn’t say we were freezing by then, but we were freaking cold. There was a restaurant a few feet away with a big inviting bar. Stepped in. Sat down next to a heater and thawed. The margarita was a mistake—blended ice? What was I thinking?—so I began a run on Patron Silver. Three, four, five, whatever. She had beer. Food was actually good. A band began playing Margaritaville on the patio and we watched the geezers dance drunkenly and I realized how much I hate that song. Salt! Salt! the geezers chanted, and I hated that song even more. Hated it enough to have it run incessantly in my head for the next week. We watched the band and the geezers for a while and had another couple tequilas and my oh my felt good. The band played an Eagles song, a couple Beatles songs and Satisfaction, which really got the geezers riled up. I can’t get no! they chanted. Time to go before they played Margaritaville again. We left during Proud Mary, and stepped a little unsteadily back into the cold. Sweet walk down Palm Canyon Drive…everyone around us seemed drunk. They took special care at the curbs on the way to their rooms or apartments or ill conceived assignations. Our room was just a block or so away, but we detoured a bit, just for the walk. There was a Rite Aid on the way. We stopped in to pick up a couple beers and a milk and a snack for the room. But when you’re drunk—not sloppy drunk, but just drunk enough—a Rite Aid looks like the Galleria. We rapidly filled up the cart with ridiculous things. Gift packs of hand lotions, DVDs, CD box sets, Christmas cards, all kinds of food, ointments, creams, a Tecate 18 pack, all kinds of stuff. She looked through the make-up, I remember looking at all the kinds of condoms that weren’t around when I was in the market. So many colors. Anyway, we just picked up all these things in that we couldn’t live without. Everything on sale of course. When we got to the check stand I realized I didn’t want to carry an 18 pack of beer back to the room and decided we’d split a single can of Fosters instead. Also thought maybe we shouldn’t buy some of the DVDs I remembered we owned already. Plus put back a CD box set by a band I would never want to own a box set of. Back went some (but not all) of the chocolates too. So we got out of there for only $87.
The point of this story being if you are ever in a small town late at night and feeling a little too good, don’t go to Rite Aid.