No matter what brand of politics float your boat, you’d probably agree that California is “progressive.” This is where the hippies, potheads, vegans, homosexuals, Scientologists, surfers, health nuts, and out of work actors roost. Californians can’t wait to plug their cars in, or even trade them in for bamboo beach cruisers that they valet at the Farmers Market. Right?
NOT in Palm Springs.
There are a lot of gay men here…but other than that I feel like I’m anywhere BUT California.
Smoking–Rat Pack style
One example is smoking. California is famous for leading the country with it’s tough public & workplace smoking bans.
I grew up in San Luis Obispo–one of the very first places to go smoke-free. I remember as a kid all the restaurant and bar owners bitching about it, and wondering just how the hell they were going to stay in business if people couldn’t smoke in their establishments. Go to San Luis Obispo today and you will find one of the nation’s few thriving economies, a beautiful downtown packed with pubs and bars that Cal Poly students frequent, and lots of people eating out in some great locally owned restaurants.
Because of the smoking legislation, California is a different place today. Less people smoke, and people who do, smoke less. Except here in Palm Springs.
Go to the downtown PS Starbucks, grab a frappucino and find a seat outside on the patio. Now start coughing. Spastic coughing fits perhaps. I can’t tell you how long it had been since I’d seen an ASHTRAY on a patio table in California. Cigarette butts overflowing from the trash can top onto the ground almost everywhere I go…
Palm Springs seems to be emulating Euro-style around the clock smoke-athons. Maybe that’s not shocking where you live, but for me it was like finding out the place I just moved to doesn’t have running water.
When I go to a house party, or am getting smashed with friends in Vegas, I really don’t care that people around me are smoking. It truly is their prerogative. Get me drunk enough, I might even ask for a puff or two.
One of my favorite things about hanging out in Tijuana is this famous little cigar shop on the main drag. My buddy and I always start our day there (usually around 2pm) with some fresh espresso and a cigar chosen by one of the pretty and friendly shop girls. But when I’m at a frickin’ Starbucks in GD California? Doesn’t make any sense.
Palm Springs is REALLY hurting financially. This is a seasonal place that makes oodles of moolah IF the rest of the country (and Canada) is raking it in. Business owners here are lamenting the lackluster tourist turnout so far this year (Palm Springs “High-Season” is roughly Halloween through April). And the visitors who are making the trip are spending very little. Pure speculation here–and YES I know there are other factors–but I can’t help wonder how this place would be different if they started promoting Palm Springs (a place that used to be a SPA destination) as a healthy vacation Mecca…
Hate bikes and people who ride them?
Then move to Palm Springs! I’m exaggerating a tad, but compared to the the rest of SoCal, the Central Coast, and practically ALL of NorCal; Palm Springs is ass backwards when it comes to bikes.
There is a “bike trail” here that is supposed to loop bikers around town. It’s 100% RECREATIONAL and it’s mostly on sidewalks. That’s not biking. Trying to ride my bike to Farmers Market this morning was a logistical mess. The official “bike routes” don’t lead to anywhere I’m trying to get to (Sad considering the Farmers Market is in the MALL’S parking lot).
Routing bikes onto sidewalk routes is dangerous. Sidewalks and bikes just don’t mix. Not only is it unsafe and unnerving for other pedestrians, the cyclist is in danger every time the sidewalk intersects with driveways and the road. Any concept that bikes have the right of way is lost and instead bikes on sidewalks reinforces the idea that bicycles are marginal and even maligned transportation.
I’ve been in Palm Springs for a little over three months now and I have only seen one die-hard bike commuter. She rides a bright pink 10-speed all over the place and even does so during the SUMMER! Good on you whoever you are.
The newer and very popular ACE hotel in Palm Springs is one of the first signs of possible renaissance here. They turned the old Denny’s into a hip organic gourmet diner, Wealthy Orange County Dad’s bring their families to hang out for a weekend, and young L.A. hipsters wear skinny jeans even by the pool.
And ACE bless their hearts thought it would be cool to offer groovy beach cruisers for their guests to ride around Palm Springs on. I’m literally embarrassed when I see these poor tourist trying to make their way from the hotel to the downtown area. You can see the terror in their eyes as they are forced onto sidewalks, almost run over by weaving snowbirds, and buffaloed by impatient locals. It could be such a neat addition to this beautiful place where you can ride around in shorts on Christmas day. But instead it’s a joke and definitely not cool.
Like inferior produce?
You’re a match for Palm Springs!
Until I found the Farmers Market I was literally aghast at how bad the produce is here. This is CALIFORNIA dammit. A place overflowing with great food. Order a salad in most Palm Springs eateries and prepare yourself for lackluster greens, tossed with inferior oily dressings, and topped with nearly translucent cherry tomatoes. A travesty.
Walk into the grocery stores and find not ripe for another month citrus, sad little (or non-existent) organic sections with even less ripe avocados and fruit [it's like the store manager says "if we're gonna order this here expensive organic shit we best get it green as hell so it lasts till we sells it]. There is no Whole Foods in the entire extended area. My local health food store carries almost no produce, and when they do it’s only for 1/2 the year! Even though the store OPERATES a cafe & juice bar requiring fresh organic produce–INSANITY.
And the worst part? So much healthy-beautiful-delicious produce is grown right here and in the surrounding communities!
What Palm Springs needs
I’ve thought about this almost every day since moving here. Writing about the negatives of Palm Springs isn’t meant to detract from what makes this place so cool. But, it’s light years behind the rest of California, and I think I know why…
Palm Springs needs more young people.
The old rat pack crowd living here is awesome. I find them endlessly fascinating.
The gay men who have turned Palm Springs into their own Mecca have done a lot to bolster Palm Springs economy and make it a better place to live. The working class who live here (that’s me) are the glue for the whole thing. Almost everyone I’ve met here is friendly, personable, and fun. They are also attracted to this PLACE and want to be here. But…
There are VERY FEW young people. The average age here is forty four.
A lot goes into making a place that attracts young artists and thinker types (jobs/venues/etc.), I know that. But simple things like getting this place healthier, more progressive, and accessible would go a long way.
The best case scenario I could see for Palm Springs would be adding a University (UCR has an extension campus in Palm Desert and there is a sad dilapidated but very popular community college there as well–but Palm Desert is another world away from Palm Springs even though they are so close) . Even a small college would really balance out Palm Springs culture and business.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians own much of the Palm Springs area and operate profitable gaming establishments including a large casino smack in the middle of downtown. It would be interesting to see them invest in the community (which they do in other ways) by investing in a totally new kind of University. Think of the possibilities for tribal promotion, grants, scholarships, etc.
The Coachella Valley is loaded with the very rich. It’s hard to convey how much wealth is hidden away in the canyons and country clubs here. And a lot of those individuals would be eager to have some campus buildings named after them I’m sure.
Thanks for reading my unsubstantiated, pulled from my ass, and probably way too long rant about my new home town! If you live in the Palm Springs area, or have visited, please share your take!
Tomorrow I’m going to share with you some new ideas I’m having about the best way for me to continue eating raw after I finish my 60 day 100% raw-food challenge.
I think it may be very helpful for a lot of other people too, who are trying to figure out a simple way to have more raw foods in their life, and maybe even eat mostly raw…