There are plenty of things to say about LA when comparing it to cities like Chicago: there’s too much driving, the buildings are ugly, everybody’s fake, everybody looks fake, everybody’s trying to make it. And while for the most part these observations are true, the only thing truer is that Palm Springs is worse. It’s hotter, the people look crisper, they’ve already made it and look at you askew, knowing that you are just a transient.
When you leave LA you drive through the desert, past Windmill Alley and, eventually, on the horizon there comes an oasis. You see the palm trees and the fresh-paved roads and you can just feel the elderly vibe. It’s mad special. You know they’re somewhere out there, cruising in golf carts wearing visors and white cotton cropped pants and talking about money and, all of the sudden, you just get it.
One hundred and twelve degrees is hot as hell, but in that good dry heat you don’t have to worry about your hair set loosening or your sensible Oldsmobile rusting out and you can pretty much drive your RV over the rolling landscape with ease. Exceptionally toned old men jog good-naturedly through the streets and would-be-blue-haired-if-it-weren’t-Palm-Springs ladies roll deep past the misters that spray out from every store front. You can feel why grandparents retire here and gay men gather here and why the Dinah Shore Weekend makes for a weekend to regret.
I myself was in Palm Springs to celebrate a friend’s birthday at the Ace Hotel, a hipster hotel franchise, to sit pool-side surrounded by a bunch of people from LA who were “just trying to get away from the scene.”
My seven-person hater party crew rolled up well-tattooed with asymmetric haircuts, ironic bathing suits, a pit bull and a Chihuahua and plenty of delicious Tecate kept on ice. The pool was basically the hipster twilight zone — populated mostly by people who would like to think of themselves as hipsters, but what they don’t know is they’re all just Trixies and Bros. You know the type: shaved head, major arm muscles, low-slung board shorts and a tribal tattoos. The Trixies flounced about in especially tiny bathing suits that barely outlined the cracks of their asses, which were themselves barely outlined by deep tan lines. When it comes to water on the West Coast, and especially the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area at large, the rule of thumb is that if your ass-cheeks hang out, it’s all good. Have some shorts on? Let’s see them cheeks. Wearing a mini-skirt? Where them cheeks at?? Have jeans on? Show us your top cheeks!
The pool water was a spicy 75 degrees during the day and pool boys kept a slow service of beer and sangria coming as a DJ played the latest indie music “must knows.” Aside from worrying about the potential for infectious disease spreading in the warm water, I worried mostly about how all of Palm Springs’ elderly population maintains in the heat. I floated on the water watching buff boys stalk girls playing dumb and I wondered what those old people were doing in that moment, how 81 degrees when the sun is down felt to them. What were they thinking of doing tomorrow when the sun rises too early and too hot. Were they so annoyed at this enclave of debauchery, of shouting and loud music and party tops.
I fell asleep that night to a distant thumping bass beat while my girl read aloud from “The Butcher’s Boy” as a sweet man with “wabi sabi” tattooed on his knuckles snored softly in the extra bed. Wabi sabi is something like accepting the beauty in imperfection. I thought for a moment that what saves Palm Springs also saves LA — if you can make it in LA as it tries to make sure the world understands that this town is This Town, you remember that you can drive a few miles and just over the sweaty road, you’ll see green trees and blue water.
Kemi Adeyemi is a life-long Midwesterner attending Graduate School in Northwestern’s Performance Studies department. When in Chicago, she rides her bike and plays in her band Hamburger Cave. She spends a lot of time in Los Angeles, where she mostly gets sun tans to show off when she returns to Chicago.