Palm Springs is a different kind of animal; always has been. Most resort communities sport the ubiquitous gated enclaves of look-alike signature homes surrounding a golf course where every home has a swimming pool in the backyard. Those enclaves of understated wealth are sprinkled with a flavoring of casinos, fine dining, expensive shops and one-of-a-kind amenities meant to separate the cake from the chaff. Palm Springs is all that but much more. Sometimes the ‘more’ isn’t quite what the Chamber of Commerce would like to promote. Yet that is what separates this desert community from so many others.
Palm Springs is unique not only because of its storied history; real and imagined. It’s been around long enough to have grown old and stale then reborn many times over. Through the decades it has attracted both the rich and the poor, the smart and not so smart, the hip and those decidedly uncool and all manners of life form in-between.
Many of the other desert communities down Valley hide behind their miles of stucco walls, ficus hedges and other obstacles to peeking inside. Not so with Palm Springs. What there is to see is out in the open and revealed for all. Natives and visitors alike come to realize very quickly that this is the normal of Palm Springs and not the exception.
Dawn in the desert is a very special time of day of many of its natives. Not only for the beautiful sunrise that paints finger-thin rays of mustard yellow against the still sleeping mountains. Or the fleeting glimpses of coyotes on the golf course returning from their nocturnal hunt. The hours just after dawn seem to draw out an interesting assortment of characters intent on enjoying the cool of morning before the heat of the day.
In the past few years Palm Springs got so dated that it became hip all over again. What was once old like mid-century modern architecture is now all the rage. Tired old motels have been revamped, remodeled, spruced up and now charge ten dollars for a bottle of beer. (But wait, I’m dating myself.) Fifties throw-away furniture fetches a fortune in design stories and replicas fare just as well. Old is new again and thus hip for those born twenty-thirty years ago. A traveler back in time like me can only smile and think about the untold wealth we took to Goodwill way back when.
While most resort communities follow the unwritten rule of retirement; sleep in, coffee on the patio and face the day on the right side of dirt, natives on the north end of the Coachella Valley are different. Early morning in Palm Springs comes to mind as a perfect example of this.
In Palm Springs it takes a lot to turn heads if you’ve been here for more than three deep breaths. For example, there’s something decidedly unremarkable about a hundred and fifty thousand dollar Bentley parked in front of McDonalds or the elderly owner inside sipping his cheap cup of coffee-with refills. Or the classic 1964 tan mustang convertible parked in front of True Value hardware. A hipster arriving at our newest hotel in town ‘The Rowen’ wouldn’t turn an eye with his vintage corvette.
The gardeners and pool boys file in and out of convenience stores for their cheap coffee, unhealthy snacks and caffeinated beverages. At the other end of the healthy lifestyle spectrum, joggers and bikers perform their morning ritual before the rest of us finish that first cup of Joe. If you see a couple with a baby stroller, chances are there is a dog or cat inside instead of a baby.
Garage sale professionals clamor for their place in line before morning coffee. They pass the homeless who have wandered in from the desert to secure their place on busy intersections with their cardboard signs. Runners outpace the sunrise and elderly spinsters exit Ralph’s super market in high heels and make-up at seven in the morning.
Centenarians are on the golf course for their sunrise special and then haunt the coffee shops before most of us are even awake.
The older set is in the Saguaro swimming pool for exercise class before their grandchildren’s generation has returned to bunk down. These women are an accomplished lot who want to spend their time as they please. And frankly, they don’t care what others might think about grandma and grandpa sipping their first cup of Joe at the Casino or country club instead of squirreling their children’s inheritance away.
It’s all part and parcel of life here in the desert.