Hot Tub Action (Give Me Satisfaction)
Making an exhibition of myself in Palm Springs
Behaving badly at a Marine-flavoured pool party in Party Town (originally appeared in Attitude, 1999 - now with gossipy, illustrated updates).
'Lurve ree-act-ion give me sa-tis-fac-tion’
Steve has made the mistake of including ‘The Best of Divine’ in the collection of CDs he’s brought with him on this car journey. Since I noticed it, about ninety miles back, he’s had to listen to nothing but Divine. Most particularly, his 1983 Bobby O (‘Blue Monday’ rip-off) hit ‘Love Reaction’.
As we zoom across the scorched desert landscape populated only by hot rocks and the occasional prickly pear, the demand for ‘lurve ree-action’ seems especially hopeless. And it would be if this wasn’t Southern California, where whole cities grow out of nothing and thrive on nothing save human weakness:
‘Every now and then You will need a friend for lurve ree-act-ion It’s the right time for LURVE REE-ACT-IONNN!'
We round a slingshot ribbon of shimmering tarmac, an angry-red mountain steps aside to reveal hundreds of waving white arms – the windfarms that guard the outskirts of the dirty-weekend desert resort of Palm Springs.
They need to generate a lot of juice. Palm Springs is one giant, bubbly, busy – rather stringy – hot tub.
Despite being late in the day, it is still one hundred degrees in the shade when we pull up outside the resort where a party in our honour is being held. Steve Zeeland, my American writer chum specialising in books about homoeroticism in the US military [and later my co-author for The Queen is Dead] looks ill and doesn’t want to leave the car.
Steve has an allergy to Southern California. Since he hates the sun, loathes the heat, doesn’t drive, has never been to a gym in his life and can’t do shallow, for him there is no point to Southern California. Except as something invented to torment him.
This is why he lives in Seattle, a Northwestern town whose climate makes Manchester look positively Mediterranean and where ‘grunge’ was, contrary to the hype, not an anti-fashion statement but merely a fungus problem. “Mark,” he croaks, his knuckles whitening on the door handle and matching his complexion, “I’m not sure I want to go through with this.”
‘Oh, come on Steve,’ I chide. ‘It’ll be fun.’
‘I don’t think you realise,’ says Steve, evenly, ‘just how scary this could be.’