Sunday, February 16, 2014

liberace's tangelos

In February, when the weather map is awash with icy blues and purples, a small red dot of sunshine is centered over the Mojave Desert. Palm Springs in winter is littered with bougainvillea. And ripe citrus. I found a tangelo tree in Liberace's old neighborhood a few weeks ago, its branches heavy with tangelos. No wonder he loved it here.
Early this morning the city looked much like it did when Liberace was alive and eating tangelos, I suspected, and he was on my mind when I biked past an unknown citrus tree, sagging with orange fruit. I turned around to get a closer look, biked past it again, then turned around and parked my bike. More squat than a kumquat, rounder than a tangelo – what WAS that fruit?
The entrance to the empty lot was barricaded by a gate, with a gap between the gate and the gate post barely too narrow to squeeze through, so I hopped over the wall and tore a small branch from the tree after I made sure that no one was watching. Would a camera catch me? Could I be arrested for trespassing? All I knew is that I had to taste that fruit.

The name of the fruit is beside the point. What's important is that this tree, whatever it's called, fruiting spontaneously in the middle of the Mojave, is a form of magic, and any sourness I may have detected when I bit into – were they clementines? – was made sweeter with the memory of my having stolen them.