Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Common Class

There were two Bentleys in the driveway and a classic convertible parked in the street.  Aside from those glamour queens, the obligatory BMWs, Mercedes, Lexus, and other sundry desert chariots were all scattered about.  I would have driven my Camry (I love that car) but the party was only a block away.

‘High season’ had begun once again in Palm Springs.

Snowbirds, seasonal visitors, and other part-timers were returning to the desert and ICNO was having a party.  ICNO, the Indian Canyon Neighborhood Organization, was hosting is annual get-acquainted party for the neighborhood.  They sponsor one party in the fall and another in the spring.  It is always hosted at someone’s house in the neighborhood and is great fodder for stealing decorating ideas, catching up on neighborhood gossip and renewing acquaintances with other seasonal players in town.

This fall, it was hosted in a newly remodeled four-level custom designed home owned by two gentlemen from the coast.

I always look forward to these parties because of the folks who attend.  A lot of them are nearby neighbors and some are active on the ICNO board as I am.  Then there’s usually an eclectic assortment of newcomers rubbing shoulders with the old regulars who have been around since Frank Sinatra stalked the golf course with a martini and close friend under both arms.

The thing I appreciate most about these parties is the lack of rarified air so typical of many West Coast gatherings.  This is not a West Hollywood party where everyone is angling to hook up or a party in the canyons where movie deals are made around the swimming pool.  It’s not like the gathering of those closed societies down valley in their cloistered gated communities.  ICNO could be like that but never has been.

What sets these neighbors apart is an almost total lack of pretentiousness.  These accomplished folks are comfortable in their own skin.  Yet despite their financial success, they are charming, engaging, and fun to talk to.  Most have fascinating backgrounds and abundant stories to share.  It’s like meeting other seasoned life travelers who just want to share their travel adventures.  No one is there to impress.  In fact, the ones who try to impress soon find themselves odd man (or woman) out.

It’s an interesting dichotomy to observe since I have several relatives who now ‘have money’ but lack the panache to pull off what these folks can.  These associates-by-marriage seem to have forgotten where they came from.  They were born rural but feel they have outgrown their roots.  They have this subtle need to either be showy or consciously put down those around them who are not as financially well-endowed.

One would think in those circumstances modesty would be the order of the day.  One hasn’t arrived because she was never on the journey.  With a jump-start from daddy, it was not affluence earned so (at least in my mind) it would seem best to be a little humble.  As for the other relative who did make it on his own, I see no reason to put down those back home with less affluence.  Both these folks seem to have forgotten the core values that are an intrinsic part of their common class roots.

Sharon's Mom's House in Wabasha

This summer, Sharon spent a great deal of time in her hometown of Wabasha, Minnesota.  She had to help sell her mother’s house, move her mother into an assisted living facility, help coordinate her mother’s estate sale and handle a laundry list of chores directly related to her mother’s care.  This entailed dealing with the locals on a daily basis.

Wabasha is a small town.  Everybody knows everybody else’s business.  They either knew Sharon or knew of her:  where she went to school, what she did afterwards, and where she is now.  There are few secrets in a small town.  Sharon was constantly on display… but it hardly mattered.  She treated everyone as she always has…with respect and common courtesy.

In many ways Palm Springs is a small town little different from Apple Valley.  While it’s true Palm Springs has as many Yoga studios as Apple Valley has daycare centers, there are enough similarities to see that both worlds run on parallel tracks.  On one level, there are different cultures, tastes, and lifestyles between the two cities.  Yet on the other end of the spectrum, there are many similarities.

The movie star Alan Ladd once had a hardware store in Palm Springs and used to make home deliveries.  Bob Hope used to stroll down Main Street to get his ice cream downtown.  A precursor to the rat pack hung out at Chi-Chi’s nightclub and burned the midnight oil at Canyon Country Club.

Canyon Country Club, the precursor to Indian Canyon, had a storied history.  Over the years, numerous movie stars and noted celebrities made their homes there.  Now it’s a curious mixture of gay couples, retired folks from the coast, Canadians and east coast transplants who do not like the Florida scene.  They’ve all come to enjoy our golf courses, spectacular mountain scenery, and the whole Palm Springs atmosphere.  Indian Canyon carries on that tradition of open hospitality and egos left at the door.  There is comfort level here among neighbors equal to that back in Apple Valley.

The ICNO party was a great success.  We renewed old acquaintances, made new friends, and planned for a very active ‘season’ back in the valley.  Sharon and I are very fortunate.  We have been able to straddle these two worlds and live comfortably in both…without losing sight of where we came from.

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