There’s an old saying that goes something like ‘Some Things never Change.’ It’s a cliché that assumes the past will repeat itself, and current events are likely to come around again in the near future. Seasonal visitors to the Coachella Valley often pack this assumption with them as they plan out their winter vacations here. This desert playground and its inherent lifestyle is planned, probable and predictable. Except this season, it was different for them and for us.
In fact, seasons like routines and the people who follow them do change, evolve, and morph into other experiences given enough time. It happened this season and it started with the weather.
While last year’s winter temperatures averaged about ten degrees warmer than normal, this year’s temps hovered about ten degrees below the norm. The Weather Service blamed it on very active weather patterns. Translated, the jet streams were going crazy and the desert went cold. Granted, one has to be very careful complaining about a daytime temp in the mid-sixties when many other parts of the country are suffering with below zero temperatures and snow cyclones. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the old desert like in years past.
Then on Valentine’s Day, the Coachella Valley experienced three and a half inches of rain in one afternoon. The average rain fall for the entire year is about five inches. There was flooding in all the arroyos and many of the major roadways were impassible.
In addition, there were subtle changes going on all around us. The old thrift stores, long a mecca for deals of every type, had changed their business strategies and approach. They were no longer the bargain bins they once were. There were also fewer estate and garage sales, no real reason why.
Downtown Palm Springs was finally filling in and with it came a new onslaught of tourists and travelers bent on experiencing the Palm Springs lifestyle. There were a couple of disappointing shows at our top-notch venue, the MaCallum Theater.
Like a lot of old friends and acquaintances here, Sharon and I tried to continue our old routine of work and play but it was different this time around. Several seasonal couples had moved on to other pastures and no longer spent winters in the desert. A few older friends had passed away. New relationships had been formed or left to wither away through an absence of communication. The yearlong residents had evolved with the seasons and no longer focused just on ‘the season’ to fill their days and nights. The old pattern of weekly dinner parties, card games and bunco was no longer the order of the day for them.
In past seasons Sharon and I have found our daily routine after a pretty short while here. Sharon used to go swimming almost every day with the other mermaids at a hotel nearby. Now the air temps made swimming a daily challenge for the mermaids. Then their hotel decided not to heat its pool in January and February while it underwent repairs. The water temp dropped to the 50s and the mermaids dropped out, waiting for warmer temps to arrive. It was a long two-month wait.
In years past, Sharon had taken a number of art classes in local venues. Now she found that new ones weren’t being offered. Her garage studio wasn’t much in use since the air temp was often too cold for the paints to dry properly. Busy schedules and colder temperatures hindered her painting pals from coming over and group painting as they had in seasons past.
I used to sequester myself in my office and work on my ‘novel in progress’ each morning. Afternoons were taken up by working out at the local gym, occasional library visits, Palm Springs Writers Guild critique groups and an assortment of other activities. But even those daily activities had gradually morphed into other daily routines. Writing novels had been replaced with plays and marketing had taken on new prominence with my works.
My first timid tip-toe into local theater was beginning to grow into larger steps in that direction. My writing had expanded to include more complicated plays and screenwriting. There was a sense of urgency to reach out to newer theatrical venues locally and back home.
Script2Stage proved the perfect venue for my newest play ‘Polly’s Amorous Adventures’ and Sharon helped fill the house for both performances. Stage managing there brought new insights into other plays and their tone and structure. It was like a graduate course in playwriting.
Local writing groups seemed stuck in the past and lost some of their relevancy to me. I moved past their stayed agenda as my own list of projects grew. A new writing routine was becoming solidly in place. The season was rushing by.
After numerous distractions, I found myself with only nine weeks left in the desert. Suddenly there were two new plays to write and three more scripts to tighten up. Preparations had begun for my scheduled play ‘The Last Sentinel’ to be performed in Minnesota in August. There were several prospective venues in the Twin Cities to explore for my past plays.
Then the Coachella Valley for next season was starting to look promising. There would be new shows at the McCullum, new hiking trails to explore, newfound friends, and neighbors who were already talking about next season’s events and gatherings.
It’ll be different next time and yet so much will remain the same. More to see. More to do. More to accomplish. It’ll be watching the constantly shifting sands of time while running out the clock on life in the desert.