Bruce in Frank’s town

The plan was simple and completely snowbirdian in its concept—rent a joint in Palm Springs for the month of January, and let Reno shiver without me during its most frigid month while I bake and frolic in the fabulous desert sun. This plan guaranteed, of course, that Reno would bask in a perfectly pleasant spring-like January, loaded up with temperatures in the upper 50s and low 60s, receiving not one speck of snow during my absence. Classic. No meteorological schaudenfreude for me! You’re welcome, Northern Nevada, because I deserve at least some credit for the marvelously mild month you just enjoyed.

Not that Palm Springs didn’t hold up its end of the deal. Gawd, the weather. Sun, cloudless, 65-75 every day. As in every day. The Coachella Valley, it’s now obvious to me, is to the West what Miami is to the East, a place where you can count on it to be totally tremendous, weather-wise, every stinkin’ day. It would be almost boring if it wasn’t so utterly and unrelentingly nice all the time, being bombarded with and surrounded by warm, smogless sky. One gets used to it very quickly. A crummy place for daytime TV-watching.

There are many towns in the valley; Palm Desert, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage and Cathedral City being the biggest and most prominent. But Palm Springs is still the heart. Author Gertrude Stein once famously put down Oakland by proclaiming that “there’s no there there.” That’s not the case with PS. There is some serious there there, and it’s most apparent in its architectural style, known as the mid-century classic. It’s a style born in California in the 50s and 60s, hence the mid-century tag. Palm Springs has realized that its glory years, which began when it became Hollywood’s favored place for desert debauchery, featured this look, and that this look should be embraced, not abandoned. As a result, you have all these low-slung, flat-roofed, patio ’n’ pool Palm love pads being lovingly restored in the same way that old classic Victorians are in San Francisco.

So it’s kinda cool when you see a town like PS with a handsome, unique look all its own, in much the same way Santa Fe has its own visual identity. You see this style consciously developed and enforced throughout, from the airport and the DMV right down to the McDonald’s and the Jack in the Boxes, which don’t look like fast food joints in Sparks or San Jose. This look is capped off, at times smothered, by the unofficial flower of PS, red bougainvillea. Not orange or yellow bougainvillea, but red. Palm Springs is one scarlet town.

Just don’t be anywhere near the place in July.