Palm Springs is a very beautiful place with not much to do unless you want to golf, hike, jog, ride bikes, swim, shop, visit the air museum, art galleries, tour the San Andreas Fault, play poker, eat amazing food, or just lay around the pool and sip cocktails. The “springs” part stems from groundwater that surfaces from the aquifer due to fissures caused by the San Andreas Fault, which runs just north of I-10. The area’s first (known) inhabitants were the Cahuilla Indian tribes (Agua Caliente, Morongo, and other branches), a very peaceful group that flourished in this area until railroads and disease-ridden blankets were introduced. Finally, in the mid-1800’s, the tribe was able to come to peaceful terms with early America and the area that is now Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio, and other beautiful towns were divided up like a checkerboard, with one square mile for the native tribes and one for the U.S. Government.
But there was a catch. The Indians were prohibited from ever selling their land. You read that right: after trying to murder them and after stealing their lands, we gave half their land back to them but prohibited them from ever selling it. The Cahuilla Tribe fought this decision in court and seventy (70) years later, the U.S. Supreme Court finally gave them permission to do so.
By the time this decision was passed we were in the roaring 20’s and, lo and behold, the land that was once barren desert is now an enormously popular destination for Hollywood elite and politicians alike. Suddenly the conversation has turned and the denizens of the area who fought so hard to have the right to sell their land now have no intention of doing so, and the remaining members of the Cahuilla Tribes have subsequently become immensely wealthy over the last century. Good for them.
To this day, when you drive through Palm Springs, you’ll see areas of land that are notably empty. And to this day the Tribe will not sell their land to you, but offer it up on a 99-year lease. And if you wish to build anything in this area you’ll need the Tribe’s approval first, and don’t build it too tall because we don’t want “paleface” to block the view of our beloved mountains. Who’s calling the shots now, eh?
Good for them.
This is the backdrop for our continuing story of scallywag behavior from both father and son whilst we lay about, imbibe gratuitously, and, well, do nothing for a week aside from that. Allow me to bring you up to speed.
Monday we flew in, arrived hungry, and drove straight to one of mine and Priscilla’s favorite eateries, The Kings Highway at The Ace Hotel. This throw-back diner reminds me of the restaurant in Pulp Fiction, where Honey-Bunny and her beau had coffee then robbed the joint. Hasn’t been redone since the 70’s and they source all of their foods organically from the Coachella Valley. Don’t let the “organic” fool you – they serve the best cheeseburger you’ve ever had. Stop at Vons to stock up on beer, water, and sunscreen (you know, the essentials) and straight to the condo.
I beamed with pride when dad saw the place. He and Mom took good care of it but Priscilla and I have remodeled it extensively. Father approved, in both words and with his elusive smile. A quick nap was in order then poolside for vodka and sunshine, two of Palm Springs’ most popular offerings. Dinner that night was enjoyed at Pacifica Seafood in Palm Desert (a top recommendation) via Uber because, well, we may have tipped one too many and weren’t taking chances.
The next day friends arrived. The old friends that Dad knew with Mom for 15 years or more. The old friends that they traveled with, celebrated the Marine Corps birthday with and savored cocktails poolside while deciding on the night’s restaurant. First to come crawling out is Virgil Redwine, followed by his much better half, Joan. My father answers a knock at the door and is accosted by demands for a new levy on insolence and bad taste. Given that, Virgil says my dad owes him $1,100. Later that day Jerry Nisker shows up with his wife, Willow. A retired cop and insurance mogul from Ontario, Jerry is all business when it comes to having a good time. Hugs are exchanged and tears are shed as everyone finally gets to see my father for the first time in over a decade. The first time since we lost my mother.
But mom isn’t the only casualty. The group has gotten decidedly smaller. Many of the regulars to Palm Springs are the older set, and certainly the core makeup of this group of poolside neighbors. Wes, the WWII P-38 Pilot is no longer with us. Doug passed and Jim, his partner, followed not long after. Mercifully, as he was miserable alone. Lyla Harper has also passed, leaving her condo to her son Mitch who, to this day, parks his RV in the wrong spot. This follows the natural course of time and, while it’s expected on a certain level, it still sucks on another level.
While Tuesday was a blast, Wednesday and today the fun really started. Mid-morning I jump on a conference call, Dad goes for a walk around the complex, then comes back after about an hour just to check on me, grinning from ear to ear. He had lost track of time sitting with Virgil on the front porch scribbling tasteless poetry. Virgil is a bad influence. Dad spent the rest of the day and evening hanging out with those same friends, dining out, and telling those old stories just one more time. Then today we had made big plans: we were going to go for a hike, get some exercise, go to the Air Museum, maybe grab lunch out. Literally, none of that happened. We were in bathing suits and poolside pretty much all day, with the same group of dad’s delinquent friends.
Sidebar: my father has not bought new athletic shorts since the 70’s, and no amount of convincing from myself, Priscilla, or my brothers will get him to change his style. If any of you have forgotten what men’s athletic shorts were like in the 70’s then I’ll remind you with this photo. You’re welcome.
This time I noticed another change with dad’s group. The group had now grown again. While some were no longer there, new arrivals had found their way into the wolfpack. Dad immediately made friends with the new recruits and the conversations rolled on through the afternoon. Susan and her husband own a neighboring condo but live full time on Vancouver Island, where she is a stay-at-home mother, grandmother, and in her spare time plays fast-pitch baseball. She had brought her friend along, Rhonda, who is a Vancouver-based tax accountant whose claim to fame is that her father is none other than THE Jack Dixon, the curling legend Parksville, Canada. She had wanted to follow in his footsteps but had suffered a traumatic curling incident in her youth. That is not a typo – I was howling!
The afternoon winds down, Dad and I get cleaned up, and the two of us find ourselves back at the Ace Hotel for another perfect meal, outside watching the sunset behind San Jacinto Mountain. A steady breeze bends the palm trees overhead and music plays as we laugh about the last two days. We both have a tan and are exhausted from a whole day of doing, well, nothing at all. After dinner dad wants to stop at Walmart to buy a couple of 15-pound dumbells because he’s determined to actually do something the next day. Well, I for one hope tomorrow brings the same great level of “nothing at all” for both of us. Let the adventure continue…