Jet-setting Zach Adams explores the curves and canyons of the Coachella Valley, where senior citizens compete with scorching sun for the title of Most Likely to Put Zach to Sleep.
by Zach Adams
I propose we change the nickname from the City of Angels to the City of Fallen Angels. Original, indeed.
Leaving the cluttered I-10 highway of L.A. for the… slightly less-cluttered extension beyond the San Bernardino Mountains, you travel through the Banning Pass, surrounded by fortuitous burnt sienna and ochre ridges. Plots of modern, sterile windmills top these mountain ledges, striking to the core of your energy-minded conscience. You imagine the people who live here, amongst these monolithic masterpieces of sustainability, surviving on the renewable voltage.
As you reach the climax of the gently inclined highway, you look ahead to the Coachella Valley and are met with desert plains. Strip malls and mountain towns speckle the taupe visage. In the distance, there is irrigated civilization.
Leaving the highway for desert towns is an unremarkable experience. The desert glory fades into shades of “greige”-colored houses and gated communities. Images of a mid-century modern architectural orgy pass through your mind as you are met, in fact, by the reality of uniform, adobe-styled, stucco-covered abodes. The sentiment is very much like Paris Syndrome, the affliction Japanese tourists experience when confronted with the brutally hostile Parisian population.
Oh, these times they are a-changin’, and change has ushered in a 55 and over populace to replace the champagne-wishes-and-caviar-dreams set of another generation. Expectations cannot cope with the mass of white, 22-inch-rimmed Escalades and Buicks hurtling and swerving toward Denny’s before the Early Bird Special ends, cataract-afflicted eyes at the helm of these land-yachts. It is this quiet and otherwise unassuming setting that was home to a thriving celebrity social scene in the days of the Rat Pack and Bob Hope.
Look around as you drive through Indio, La Quinta, Palm Desert, and into the Springs. You could imagine yourself traveling through medieval Europe’s walled cities, protected from invaders. Each development’s security guard, gate, and golf course glimmer with the icy perfection of uniformity. Grocery delivery services render leaving the development futile. Had you not noticed the high school with Arabian-inspired graphics wrapping the stucco-walled, single-story building, you may have forgotten there was a sub-retirement population here.
Perusing the Coachella Valley paper, the weekend shortlist reads like anathema to any Original Mag loyal. The proposed (family-friendly, I might add) cultural agenda consists of several movie screenings that would put your grandmother to sleep and a back-to-school desert fashion show. Le sigh.
Thhhh-whop! A sip of merlot after bronzing in the 106 degree, burning sun wakes you out of the numb, skyscraper slumber of Pittsburgh city-life. Coachella is not a bustling metropolis, you recall, and it was never meant to be. The air is still. The fronds of palms rest with the population. The one and only noise is the sound of water overflowing from the elevated hot tub into the undulating pool. Zen overcomes you.
The valley is neither dull, nor drab, after all. Living in the future rids your memory of simplistic beauty, of how it feels to stand still longer than an hour, longer than a day. Relaxation is why you came first, and why you came again, Frankie says.