Funny the odd things that stick in your mind during boyhood. “Palm Springs Weekend“, 1963, was one of those movies that captured my imagination and has resided there, these many years. http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/307265/Palm-Springs-Weekend-Movie-Clip-Live-Young-.html . Little did I know that, three continents and four decades later, it would become one of my favorite places to spend Easter Weekend, as they did in the movie. Now Palm Springs, California, has become a neighbor. A four hour and twenty minute, $4.15c per gallon gasoline, 280 mile drive almost directly West of Phoenix along Rt. 10. So, off to Palm Springs for a four day weekend to catch Peter, my shamwari, my good friend, my confident, who resides for six months in the West and six months in the East. A life in Fall years and a life lived now without Winters.
The preparation for such a visit, to such a friend, included Tickey’s primping and preening, Arizona style, at Danny’s Family Carousel Car Wash. Supplicants, gifts and suitable homages befitting the host. No more Hammonton Blueberries, Peaches and Jersey Sweet Corn to his Sag Harbor home. Pinot Noir and Grigio, Shiraz and one that acknowledges the host’s Teutonic roots. Pie! Big, deep and fruitful finally found at Sunflower Market. So hand fumbled and gnarled and looking like it was crafted by a five year old, thus it could only possibly be “organic“. (What is it about “organic” that insists that everything under that label be bereft of beauty?)
So this is what 101˚ feels like, driven through the desert for nearly five hours, windows down with air swirling deprived of any suggestion of cool, my ‘driver’s arm’ benefiting from three applications of factor 30 lotion. Like someone left the oven door open with the dial set to full bake. Could it be possible that Palm Springs 101˚ could feel hotter than desert 101˚? Yes, just add manicured lawns, full blossoming gardens and the humid vapors of a million sprinkler systems. This after a brief halt on RT. 10 just through La Paz County, over the Colorado River and right into California Orange orchard territory. A brief suggestion of a vehicle inspection for contaminated fruit in an outpost straight out of the Old West, the Alamo, complete with hanging bell.
‘The Springs‘, in the Coachella Valley, is tucked up against the San Jacinto mountains, snow flaked in April, on land mostly still leased, Indian Territory. An odd mix of the ultra conservative, wealthy white and the vacationing and retiring gay. This is the land of nice where everything is congenial. Pristine landscaping, fragrant and boundless blooms, where sweet Annuals mix with prickly Cacti, to the flat roofed, fifties ranchers, open turquoise swimming pools and Palm Trees reaching unnecessarily tall towards guaranteed sunlight. Every window view is a cherished, khaki mountain view. Where the sun also conforms to rigid code. Always rises at five over the East mountain tops and always sets at six over the West mountain tops taking with it the heat and humidity and leaving gentle breezes and meals always el fresco. Even joyful Cacti see to catch the mood with open mouthed blooms and succulent prickly fruit.
Perhaps it’s a ridiculous pleasure, (seemingly lost to those who could enjoy it daily), but being able to pick citrus fruit right off your own … and your neighbors … trees, feels like valhalla to me. Grapefruit the size of Cannon Balls that taste … well … like Grapefruit should. A lazy weekend shared like many others in the past. One after the other familiar meals, easy conversations, remembered memories, and guiltless nothingness. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Desert Sun read front to back. Palm Springs was always a fleeting desire, an impossible dream. And yet, suddenly, I am here, in my own vehicle, living nearby and surrounded by all this beauty. This is my world. Did I subconsciously plan this? Stake out my future? All those Easter breaks, convertible rental cars, the Joshua Tree National Park, tramway journeys to the mountain top? Am I here in the memory of Troy Donahue and Connie Frances. Did they truly reside in my mind and change it? Perhaps, perhaps. A weekend of pensive thoughts, sound advise, future plans, promises made and ending with a trunk load of ripened fruit and continued with an evening spent with a newly bought electric squeezer and freezer Pitchers. That’s the best way I know to take care of four days.