The Endless Summer, Pt. II — Palm Springs

As if my previous post wasn’t cruel enough for readers in the American midwest and east who once again suffer the unwelcome descent of the Arctic into their midst, we decided to spend the weekend by the pool in Palm Springs.

Bloody Mary & Imogen poolside

Bloody Mary & Imogen poolside

Actually, it was a Sunday memorial for my wife’s maternal grandmother that drew us to the desert. But we thought why not make a weekend of it, and so found a swanky hotel with an atomic age theme and settled in.

I first began spending time in Palm Springs in college, well after the martini and Rat Pack heyday, well before the town would be descended upon by wealthy hipsters and gay trendsetters seduced by the nearly limitless bounty of mid-century modern architecture. I recall once deciding, after an already long night of partying, to depart with friends for the desert at 3 in the morning and arriving at sunrise to purchase a case of Corona beer and wake ourselves by splashing in a sacred Indian spring. Another memorable time seated around a big table at a sushi restaurant, our friend Gary offered to attempt to eat all the wasabi on the table if we bought his dinner. He popped the golf ball-sized accumulation into his mouth, took a chew or two, turned a ghastly white and bolted from the table for the bathroom. Needless to say, he paid for his own dinner.

Sinatra's Twin Palms estate

Sinatra’s Twin Palms estate

Nowadays, my Palm Springs experience is decidedly tamer. Palm Springs is, itself, tamer. Gone are the wild Spring Break riots and funky cheap desert hotels that defined my hedonistic formative years there. Diners have been replaced by upscale restaurants with names like Lulu and Acqua. All the funky cheap desert hotels we used to stay in are now resorts, and I wonder if I might have guzzled beer and vodka with girls whose names I didn’t know by the very pool where my wife and I now sip wine at whatever hotel the Riviera as it is now christened in its retro midcentury renaissance used to be.

Some years back, my wife and I attended the wedding of a friend at Frank Sinatra’s old Twin Palms estate, purchased and restored by some gay trendsetters. There was still a crack in the master bathroom sink where Frank once threw a champagne bottle at Ava Gardner. Now, this stunning house with its piano shaped pool where rumor has it Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich once kissed during a party, is more like a museum, frozen in time. A good metaphor for Palm Springs in general.

The dining, as I said, has gotten much better. Last time we were here, we ate at a Tommy Bahamas restaurant, which was surprisingly good and reasonably kid friendly. Kid friendly is a big thing when we dine out as a family. I googled “kid friendly Palm Springs restaurants” and was given a list that included such suspect recommendations as Roy’s, the expensive upscale Hawaiian outfit. We headed instead for the aforementioned Lulu, another recommendation, but a hip-looking crowd milling about outside waiting for tables scared us off. And we wound up at Bill’s Pizza instead, where the cheerful waitress thought nothing of my slouching son or acrobatic booth-scaling preschooler, nor my wife spilling her full glass of ice water across the table. The food came fast, the antipasto salad featured a variety of fancy lettuces and the pizza was fresh and tasty.

Waiting for dinner at Bill's

Waiting for dinner at Bill’s

Back in the hotel room with the giant Marilyn print on the wall, we finished our bottle of wine and listened to the chatter of revelers by the poolside fire pit and strains of Beach Boys filtering in from outside as we faded to the sandman.

In the morning, where I am certain we are the first ones awake in the hotel, the fire pit still burns although the music has stopped. After stepping out for breakfast and coffee at a place called Koffi, we return and take our spot by the pool. The kids splash in the water and I get bloody marys from the Tiki Bar, which seems like the right thing to do. “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” plays on the stereo, vampires slowly emerge from their rooms — tattooed 20-something guys with their energy drinks and light beers and breakfast burritos, their skinny bikinied trucker cap-wearing girlfriends texting and drinking blue Gatorade, looking bored and put out, passing time until god knows what. Maybe this is the 2014 version of me and my friends? I like to think we were more interesting and less affected, although my sepia-toned memories may be deceiving me.

Back in the room, we dress for the memorial and pack our bags to head home as the endless summer continues. There is a possibility of rain in the forecast for later in the week. But it is only a 20% chance. And as we pass Indian casinos on the way home, I’m thinking that those are odds I’m not likely to take.


16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. M. R.
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 00:09:30

    [sulk] I want recipes.


  2. La valise de louise
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 00:27:02

    Awesome narrative! Loved the Frank Sinatra anecdotes!


  3. Michelle
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 00:53:00

    Fine. Rub it in.


  4. pal-O
    Jan 30, 2014 @ 19:50:08

    That weather must bore you tears sometimes. At least you have June Gloom to look forward to. Same thing with the winter clothes: I look for anything in the 60’s or below to break out the winter gear and enjoy my sweaters and I am in heaven when we see the 40’s because that means sweater and a scarf and a nice fire in the backyard with a half of a wild pig marinated in pineapple juice slow roasting over the coals. Nothing like the ever changing weather of Central FLA in winter to break up the monotony of the ho-hums.


  5. Trackback: Finally following through (and eating bacon onion marmalade) | Attempts in Domesticity

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