Tuesday, December 18, 2018

South of Downtown

In the late fifties, an intrepid developer named Albert Frey approached the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians about the hundreds of acres they owned south of downtown Palm Springs. Since the mid-thirties, new neighborhoods and surrounding developments had always sprung up north or east of the downtown core. South of downtown was a barren wasteland of desert pockmarked with little else than scrub brush and roadrunners.

The Indians agreed to a one hundred year lease on the land (since renegotiated) and the area south of town began to blossom and grow. First came a championship golf course, then homes, each individually designed and built, around the links and finally condominium clusters in the land remaining. Canyon Country Club was born along with the Indian Canyon neighborhood.

In the last ten years, a new neighborhood organization was loosely organized around the idea of tying the disparate variety of homeowners into a more cohesive group of vested neighbors. The ICNO (Indian Canyon Neighborhood Organization) fall and spring neighborhood parties are the highlight of the season for most homeowners here.

Fall is the beginning of ‘High season’ in the desert. Snowbirds, seasonal visitors and other part-timers are returning to the desert. Traffic is getting congested on highway 111, the main artery through town. Some restaurants are no longer taking reservations because they don’t have to and the entertainment venues like casinos are billboarding top acts once again.

This November, ICNO hosted its annual get-acquainted party for our little community. It’s 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.

A lot of the folks in attendance are nearby neighbors. Some are active on the ICNO board as I used to be. 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 each arm.

The thing I appreciate most about these parties is the lack rarified air so typical of many West Coast gatherings. This isn’t 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 are accomplished folks who 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 ad-ventures. No one is there to impress. In fact, the ones who try to impress soon find themselves odd man (or woman) out.

In many ways Palm Springs is still a small town little different than 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 a lot of 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. Frank Sinatra and his 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, has 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 don’t 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 some new friends and planned for a very active ‘season’ back in the valley. Sharon and I are very fortunate. We’ve 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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